After five years of planning, acquiring and restoring the components, identifying a specific location at Canalside and then finding the funds to make it happen, a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday afternoon on the site of the future Buffalo Heritage Carousel.
The restored vintage carousel, and the building that will house it, will be located in Canalside of Prime Street near Clinton's Dish.
Determining the exact location of the carousel is just one of the many hurdles that needed to be cleared in a five-year journey for Laurie Hauer-LaDuca and board members of Buffalo Heritage Carousel, Inc.
"It is qute amazing, actually. I thought about it this morning," said Hauer-LaDuca, who is president of the not-for-profit entity overseeing the carousel's restoration. "I had to reflect upon starting this project in 2014 and realizing it's almost 2020, and all the parts and pieces of this project to get to this point. It is a huge milestone for our project."
The carousel was originally purchased by Italian immigrant Domenick De Angelis in 1924. He later moved the unit to Boston and, upon his death in 1952, his family placed the carousel in storage. A company in Mansfield, Ohio that restores carousels was holding it when, five years ago, Hauer-LaDuca and others announced the effort to buy it.
One of the features that excited Buffalo Heritage Carousel leaders is the attraction will be solar powered.
"Joan Bozer, who is on our board and was one of the founding people in Western New York Sustainable Energy, started this idea," Hauer-LaDuca said. "It was important that the carousel be solar powered because our area has been a pioneer of energy, and especially renewable energy with Niagara Falls. And now, solar is taking over. It's a fun way to celebrate renewable energy besides just panels on a roof."
Several steps were needed to gather the nearly $4 million to fund this project. The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation provided $250,000 to purchase the carousel, a Spillman Engineering Park Style Menagerie model, built locally by the Allan Herschell Company.
State Assemblyman Sean Ryan secured a $600,000 grant to restore the carousel, while Senator Chris Jacobs secured $500,000 to fund construction of the building which will house it. The Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Commission awarded $200,000 for capital expenses, while the Russell J. Salvatore Foundation, Wegmans and West Herr have also forwarded donations.
The bulk of the money came from Governor Andrew Cuomo's $1.2 million matching grant to begin the project. That was matched by dollars provided by KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was present and spoke of the opportunity not just for Western New Yorkers but all Canalside visitors to enjoy the carousel. Existing neighbors in Canalside, Hochul stated, have enjoyed visitors from parts far and wide.
"Just speaking to representatives of Explore and More (Children's Museum), they've had 1,700 ZIP codes represented. That's people from all over the country, Canada, and elsewhere that are now discovering that museum," she said. "Wait 'til the next summer, when we have the opportunity to open up this brand new family attraction. The best is yet to come."
Hauer-LaDuca explained that a carousel is indeed an attraction for all ages.
"It's interesting, because people always say it's for children. But actually, the original carousels were designed as an attraction and entertainment for adults," she said. "It's demographically for everyone. It's such a simple pleasure that it's going to put a smile on your face, whether you're riding the carousel or just enjoying its artistry as it turns around."