Tonawanda News

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August 31, 2013

The stories behind Kiddieland

Rides, area at new museum exhibit have a history all their own

Tonawanda News — When the long-awaited Kiddieland exhibit, with its four working Herschell rides, opens to the public today at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, it marks the culmination of dozens of stories under the overarching theme of a museum with a dream.

Here are a few of them:

•••

Architect Michael Bray grew up around the museum, which holds portraits of his great-great-grandfather Wallace Olver (in the roundhouse) and great-grandfather Ward Olver (in the wood shop). His father, Ward Bray, was one of the original group of people who worked toward a carrousel museum in North Tonawanda, and still volunteers there.

So when museum director Rae Proefrock was seeking an architect to help with the Kiddieland project, she said, she knew exactly who to call.

“Michael’s been here since he was a little boy, coming to ride the carrousel,” she said. “We knew he was an architect; we knew we needed some help with the shelters. And he did everything. It was amazing.”

Wallace and Ward Olver were artists, designing carrousels, painting murals and carving horses for Herschell-Spillman Co. and Allen Herschell Co. Bray assisted with art of another sort, working close to 400 hours pro bono to create civil engineering drawings dealing with site layout, designing foundations and ride structures, working with contractors and dealing with issues including zoning, electrical and drainage — and, as he put it, putting all the pieces together.

“As an architect, I have to take that project under my wing and sign and stamp the drawing and hold myself responsible for what’s designed and what’s out there,” he said. “I’m just grateful the carrousel recognized that need and came to me for that.”

Besides a professional success, the project was also very personally rewarding for the great-great-grandson and great-grandson of artists who worked on countless pieces of work in the building adjacent to where the Kiddieland exhibit now stands. 

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