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Arts & Culture

Vintage carousel to soon be restored, placed at Canalside

It was built in the 1920s in North Tonawanda, bought by a man who moved it to Massachusetts and has more recently sat in storage in Ohio. A vintage carousel will soon be coming back to Western New York, calling Buffalo's Canalside its new home.

New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan led a news conference at Canalside late Tuesday morning, at which time he confirmed that $600,000 in state capital funds have been secured to restore and eventually move the carousel. The purchase of the carousel is being made possible by a $250,000 gift from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, secured by the not-for-profit organization Buffalo Heritage Carousel, Inc.

"This is going to be another iconic part of the Canalside experience," Assemblyman Ryan said. "Just like the canals, the Adirondack chairs and the bike ferry. It's a perfect addition for Canalside, and it's the perfect amenity to keep the momentum going down here at Canalside."

The carousel was first recommended in a 2010 study commissioned by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, known as the Buffalo Canalside Cultural Master Plan. 

The carousel is a Spillman Engineering Park Style Menagerie model, built locally by the Allan Herschell Company. It was purchased in 1924 by Italian immigrant Domenick De Angelis, who worked as a taxi driver to save enough money to buy the piece. He moved the carousel to Boston, according to officials. After De Angelis passed away in 1952, his family put the carousel into storage. It's currently being kept by a company in Mansfield, Ohio that restores carousels.

According to those who located and acquired the carousel, the De Angelis family wasn't interested in selling it to just anyone, respecting the passion their late loved one had for it. But they were convinced moving it to Buffalo was the right thing to do.

"Their dream became our dream," said Laurie A. Hauer-LaDuca, president of Buffalo Heritage Carousel. "We have this beautiful story of what the De Angelis carousel was for them. And now we have the new story, a Buffalo story, for this carousel for hopefully the next 100 years and beyond."

Restoration is expected to take approximately 18 months. As part of the carousel project, plans call for construction of a building that will house the vintage attraction and allow it to operate throughout the year. Both the exact location of the carousel at Canalside and the design of its shelter have not been finalized.

Among the carved animals to be featured on the carousel are horses, a lion, tiger and a mule. The latter, nicknamed "Sal," will pull a specially-built replica of an old Erie Canal barge, according to Hauer-LaDuca, who added that the barge seat will be handicap-accessible. 

The target date for opening the Carousel at Canalside is 2017. Plans call for charging one dollar per ride.

"I have the first free ticket given out for a ride on the carousel," joked Ryan. "I'm going to keep this in my pocket and I hope to cash it in, in the summer of 2017."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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