Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NT carousel museum celebrating milestone

North Tonawanda is known for its history in relation to the production of the carousel in South Africa, and that’s thanks to a gentleman named Allan Herschell.

On Saturday, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, located at 180 Thompson St., will celebrate 100 years.

To mark the special event, the museum will offer admission for only $1 and ride tokens for 50 cents from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Kiddieland Testing Park will be open as long as weather permits.

A special 100th Anniversary exhibit will be unveiled which will be funded by the New York State Council on the Humanities. In addition, demonstrations will be offered in the museum’s Music Roll Shop, Wood Carving Gallery and Restoration Department.

“At 11 a.m., we will have a ribbon-cutting for the 100th Anniversary exhibit,” said Rae Proefrock, director of the museum. “The main part is a timeline of the company’s history from 1915 to 2015, then there’s the promotional materials the company used, another wall centers around the workers and the principals of the company.”

Proefrock noted that a list has been compiled of names of employees who worked at the factory over the years, which currently includes 1,200 individuals. She added that the materials for the exhibit mostly came from the company’s archives and will be on display for at least two years.

The museum is open April through December and offers visitors not only a chance to experience some of the iconic Herschell rides that so many remember from their childhoods, but there’s also a lot of local history to take in. A whole segment of the museum is dedicated to the old Wurlitzer music rolls and the Lockman Collection, a series of wooden carousel horses in South Africa that document the changes in style of these rides over the years.

Residents, or those who have a close connection to the museum, which has catered to the young and the young at heart since its transformation into a museum in July of 1983, are invited to bring items to contribute to a museum time capsule. There will also be games and historical children’s activities dating back to the time when the factory first opened in North Tonawanda.

“We’ll put in ride tokens, schedules, things like that,” Proefrock said. “People can bring things as well, photographs of people riding Herschell rides over the years would be nice.” She included photos taken at the old Whistle Pig in the Town of Niagara, where the current rides that make up the Kiddieland Testing Park used to be located. The capsule is expected to be buried for at least 50 years.

While the Herschell Factory is the fourth such factory to establish itself in the Lumber City, Allan Herschell himself had been a partner in two of the earlier firms, including the Armitage Herschell Co. and the Herschell-Spillman Co. Proefrock stressed that they’re not just celebrating 100 years, but rather 100 years of continuous existence and function.

Over 3,000 carousels were shipped out of the North Tonawanda factory, including about 70 of the remaining 110 that are still in operation.

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