Last weekend was a lovely day for a drive so our family decided to visit the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum located in North Tonowanda, NY.
I’ve always been fascinated by carrousels (the original spelling has two r’s) because, according to my Mother, my Grandfather carved “Roundabout” horses in England before he moved to the United States. Roundabouts are England’s version of the carousel, except that they rotate clockwise rather than counterclockwise.
I was surprised to discover that carousels were originally created for adults and were considered “thrill rides.” In their early years (the late 1800s) the clergy and town eldermen discouraged adults from spending their $.02 to ride the attractions because of the danger and the distinct possibility of moral corruption.
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is housed in its original building, once owned by Allan Herschell. During his prestigious career, Herschell produced over 3,000 carousels which were shipped all over the world. The Factory no longer creates carousels because the wooden horses of yesteryear have been replaced by fiberglass horses which hold up better and are less costly to produce.
The museum has a wonderful display of menagerie animals created at the factory, and you can sometimes catch carving exhibitions in the carving room, where they also offer beginner, intermediate and advanced woodcarving classes. Although they no longer create carousel animals there, the factory sometimes restores damaged wooden animals. On the day we were there, a green frog had just been returned to health.
The Herschell Carrousel Museum offers occasional special events throughout the year, such as the birthday party celebration we happened to catch, complete with birthday cake in honor of the museum’s founder, Allan Herschell.
In the pavilion, children and adults can enjoy a ride one of Herschell’s all-horse carousels from 1905, complete with music from its original Wurlitzer carrousel organ. There is also a small antique kiddie carrousel in the Children’s Gallery for the youngest set.
Seniors from the neighborhood still reminisce about the excitement they felt as children when they heard a bell ring at the factory. The bell heralded a newly finished carrousel, ready to be tested. The local children would run and hop on the carrousel, enjoying the carousel’s inaugural run for free.
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is located at 180 Thompson Street in North Tonowanda, NY. and is open:
- April 1 – June 11: Wed – Sun Noon – 4 PM
- June 14 – Sept 4: Mon-Sat 10 AM-4 PM and Sun Noon-4 PM
- September 6 – December 30: Wed-Sun Noon-4 PM
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for Seniors and $2.50 for children 2-12.
The museum also has an online gift shop for carousel afficianados.