Preservation Magazine, Fall 2021

How an Antique Carousel Came to Life in Buffalo, New York

A nearly century-old carousel has risen on the Buffalo, New York, waterfront. After a four-year, $2 million restoration paid for by public and private funding, the Buffalo Heritage Carousel began spinning on Memorial Day weekend 2021, offering rides for $1 a pop. Originally commissioned by a New England amusement park owner and built in 1924 by the Spillman Engineering Corporation in North Tonawanda, New York, the carousel had operated in Massachusetts and then spent 65 years in storage before arriving in Buffalo.

“The challenge was to make this once-beautiful carousel beautiful again,” says Helen Ronan, who co-led the project with Laurie A. Hauer-LaDuca. It entailed the return of more than 30 hand-carved animals to North Tonawanda, where master carver and carousel restoration specialist Patrick Stanczyk oversaw volunteers who stripped, sanded, and primed the whole menagerie. Rosa Patton, another well-known carousel expert, instructed volunteers on the proper painting technique, and the team used what was left of the old paint layers to get as close as possible to the original hues.

The addition of a rooftop solar array to the new, $4 million roundhouse containing the carousel honors Buffalo’s history as a sustainable energy hub. “Buffalo has been a center for hydropower since the 1901 PanAm exposition [which featured lighting powered by hydroelectricity],” says Carima El-Behairy, director of operations and development for Buffalo Heritage Carousel, Inc., the local nonprofit whose members are responsible for the ride’s return. “We wanted to create a sustainable carousel that could be enjoyed by generations to come.”

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Lauren Vespoli is a freelance culture writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.

Applications for the Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant program are due December 15, 2021.

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