Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 37: Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

On June 25, 2009, after going to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site we headed to the town of North Tonawanda to see the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. This museum only cost $5 per person. It was totally worth the price compared to the Theodore Roosevelt site in Buffalo that without Mik’s access pass would have cost us $10 a person ($5 for Mik’s age) and had very little to see or even learn about.

The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is a rather small museum, but it is really well done. The museum is housed in the factory where the Herschell company once made the carrousels and other early amusement park rides. The self-guided tour begins in a room that has a carving station where demonstrators sometimes work live to show how the early carrousel horses were carved. No one was working when we were there, but they did have some pieces that are part of the process of carving a carrousel horse on display, such as legs and bodies. They also had a video showing how the carvers worked.

One part of the room that has the carving display has a display on Wurlitzer organs. According to Dad this is a famous organ brand, but of course I have not ever heard of them, however if you know me then you know I know nothing about the particulars of anything music related and can rarely even tell you who sings my favorites songs. It was an interesting display about the making of the Wurlitzer organs with a main focus on the drums for the automatic ones, such as the ones that were put in Carrousels. They even had a video showing the making of the organs.

The next part of the museum is a room with some of the carrousel designs the company made. This room is technically the second one to go through, but you do go through it on the way to the first room on the self-guided tour. This room tells the history of the company and the carrousels creatures. One of the interesting things I learned here is that the carrousel animals were usually elaborate on the side that was seen from the outside of the carrousel and the side that faced the middle was more plain.

On display are mostly horses, but they have some other animals including a rooster, a dog, a pig, the rare ostrich, and a zebra with a painted saddle. Interestingly the zebra model was originally made without a saddle because it was thought of as a wild animal and should be ridden saddleless (somehow the same thought did not apply to kangaroos, frogs, ostriches, etc.), however after most patrons refused to ride the saddleless zebra owners of carrousels often painted the saddle on it and people would then ride it.

In the hallway that leads to a big 1916 carrousel has some other kiddie rides the company made including a roller coaster. The room next to it is for young kids and includes a lot of things to entertain young kids including a kiddie carrousel.

Admission to the museum includes one ride on the carrousel per person. Being a 1916 carrousel it was not accessible and Mik was not interested in even being put on the bench part to ride on it, so just Dad and I went on it. It was fun to ride it. What was really cool is that the middle is open, so you can see the organ and such that is usually surrounded by panels.

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