Tonawanda News

December 19, 2013

No. 9: Carrousel museum opens Kiddieland

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The rides are resting in storage now, at least until spring. The music is quiet, and the shelters are hidden by snow.

But for six weekends this past summer and fall, the dream that was the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum’s Kiddieland exhibit came to life at the North Tonawanda museum, drawing hundreds of people to take a spin and learn more about one of NT’s most notable claims to fame. 

After years of planning and work, the exhibit — featuring four working rides all constructed by the Herschell company — officially opened Aug. 31. It marked the culmination of about five years of planning, fundraising and work, said Rae Proefrock, museum director. 

“It was very good for us,” she said. “Some people came every weekend. We sold about 100 memberships.  If we can do anywhere near as well over the summer, we’ll be very excited.”

During opening weekend, Ed Janulionis, a museum board member who runs the Allen Herschell Company and helped spearhead the project, estimated that Kiddieland cost about $350,000. “If you added the volunteer hours, you’re probably talking another $100,000 or more. 

“That’s how big this project turned out to be. I think it’s been worth it,” he said at that time. “This is great for the community. I’m hoping the community does take advantage of this. It’s for them.”

The rides in their sheltered and landscaped area include three that once ran at Page’s Whistle Pig in the Town of Niagara — a 1949 pony cart ride, 1961 helicopter ride, 1957 boat ride, and a 1946 car and firetruck ride donated by Sam Hummel of North Carolina. 

“I just love the comments from the people who had ridden the rides at Page’s,” Proefrock said. “That’s what we were trying to do, bring back all those memories.”

The exhibit is expected to open for its first full season on Memorial Day weekend in 2014. The museum opens for its spring hours April 2.

In addition to that milestone, the museum has even more plans on the horizon. On Dec. 11, which marked the annual release of state funding through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, Proefrock learned that the museum was awarded twice the amount for which it had applied, including $134,000 from the Empire State Development Corp. and a matching $134,450 grant through the Canalway Matching Grant Program. 

The funds will allow the museum to refurbish the complex’s old office building at the rear of the property, turning it into an education center and special events space. The project will take an estimated $269,000 to complete. 

“I’m really excited about that,” Profrock said. “This is last restoration project we need to do to the complex. I’m sure we’ll think of something next ... but I’ll be happy when this is completed.”

The refurbishment could begin as soon as fall 2014. Work includes a new foundation, reconstruction of the original roof line and repairs to windows, doors, siding, mechanical systems, plumbing and other site improvements. 

THE LIST SO FAR • No. 10: Pavilion opens in Niawanda Park • No. 9: Carrousel museum gets a boost