Niagara Gazette — The company initially allowed the group to use the roundhouse, Proefrock said. In 1981, they located the large 1916 Allen Herschell No. 1 Special carrousel in Canada and began working to purchase it, with volunteers criss-crossing the entire city and the City of Tonawanda to sell yellow tickets for $2, with proceeds going to the down payment.
“Eventually it would be good for a family ride on the carrousel,” Proefrock said. “I would tell people to put it in their jewelry box and eventually they’d find it there with other treasures. Years later, we still got some of those yellow tickets. I even had a few people say, ‘I found it in my jewelry box!’ “
The ticket campaign raised $10,000. The group brought the carrousel back in 1982 and started working to restore it, opening the ride in time for the first Canal Fest in July 1983. At first, Proefrock said, it was just the roundhouse and the carrousel within, open every other day.
“Because on alternate days, we had to repair it,” she said. “Something was always going wrong.”
The group purchased the building, but disaster struck in March 1984, less than a year after the carrousel’s opening. A heavy March snowstorm collapsed the roundhouse, bringing 3 feet of dense snow and the roof down onto the carrousel. When the group dug things out, however, Proefrock said, things were not nearly as disastrous as they could have been.
“The only thing that was broken was one of the sweeps,” she said, referring to one of the ride’s support beams. “It could have all been matchsticks.”
About 1990, the roof was repaired, the carrousel moved back to its home and Proefrock started writing grants. “Then we just kept going from there.”
The building and the 1916 carrousel were added to the New York state and National Registers of Historic Places. Slowly, but steadily, exhibits were added as portions of the buildings were spruced up and reconstructed. The museum acquired a small 1940s children’s carrousel, which had been restored as a hobby by a Wisconsin man who then donated it.