The unique timber frame building surrounding the Buffalo Heritage Carrousel in Buffalo, New York is part of the sweeping Canalside revitalization project at the terminus of the historic Erie Canal. The structure houses the extremely rare De Angelis Carousel, a hand carved menagerie carrousel that is nearly one hundred years old and is believed to be one of only ten carrousels of its kind produced by Spillman Engineering Corporation of nearby North Tonawanda New York.
Designed to be reminiscent of an eight-sided circus tent, the timber frame building surrounding the historic carousel is a merging of old and new technology. Featuring a cutting-edge solar array roof donated by Tesla that powers the antique carousel, that was also manufactured in Buffalo.
“We had targeted early on for the carrousel to be solar powered. We approached Tesla and asked if they would like to be involved and they said absolutely. So, they donated the roof,” says Carima El-Behairy, Director Operations & Development for Buffalo Heritage Carrousel inc. “The local Tesla Plant is only two miles up the road from us and our solar array roof came out of there, and I believe it is the first solar array roof in Buffalo.”
The carrousel itself was originally commissioned by Dominick De Angelis of Massachusetts in 1924. Mr. De Angelis operated the carrousel as an attraction at various locations around the state, often as part of a penny arcade, until his death in 1954. The carousel was stored for decades after his death by Mr. De Angelis’s family, eventually in 1988 making its way to Carousel Works in Mansfield Ohio with hopes to restore the one-of-a-kind carousel to its former glory.
In 2016 the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, inc. purchased the carousel from the De Angelis family and brought it back home to Western New York where it was first manufactured to start its new life as public waterfront attraction. The restored carrousel is now part of the Canalside revitalization project on the historic Erie Canals ending point, which features hundreds of events throughout the year at low or no cost to the public. This community space is a destination area that features dining, live music, sports venues, and waterfront access along with historical points of interest and educational content.
The Carousel building itself is intended to be an interactive educational space, combining old and new in a setting conducive to celebrating the past and preserving local history while advocating sustainability for the future.
“Our carrousel is one of only ten that came out of the Spillmen Engineering Corporation that was a hand carved menagerie carrousel. We need to preserve that type of history. But to actually preserve that type of history we have to develop a way to restore it and I see this as part of a larger effort of going back to our roots and making it current. In this example, we can tie in renewable solar energy to our past in a single location and talk about it. I think it is a teaching tool to be able to teach about renewable energy,” explains Carima.
The project came to New Energy Works through our relationship with eco_logic Studio as the building evolved in concept from a steel and glass structure to that of a timber frame building. Integrating sustainable timber frame design into the project was at the forefront of that evolution in the design process, fitting with the projects underlying theme of history meeting sustainability. Featuring an innovative steel compression ring at the very top of the building to achieve the circus tent design aesthetic, the heavy timber building is an acknowledgement of how old methods can be made new with sustainable building methods that marry with the message of the solar array roof powering the historic carrousel.
“The feeling of the building is extremely welcoming, and wood does that versus metal, which would have given us a cold vibe. It would have changed the whole mood of the project,” says Camira. “I don’t think people understand how durable timber framing is, because this building will be around as long as our carrousel is around.
Truly a local effort, the undertaking exclusively employed workers, vendors, and companies located in Western New York to realize the vision of a historic waterfront carrousel feature as part of the Canalside project. A fitting tribute to the city of Buffalo as a carrousel manufacturing hub of the early 1900’s as well as the city’s location as the terminus of the Erie Canal that made Buffalo thrive in the industrial era of American History.
“We wanted to source local vendors for this entire project. Except for the installation of the carrousel itself, every single hand that touched our project, from the utilities to the construction, to the excavation, everything was a local company out of Western New York,” Camira surmised. “I think the Buffalo Heritage Carrousel is a perfect example of merging old and new technology and also highlighting what can be done for a community when we all work together.”
See our case study: The Buffalo Heritage Carousel | New Energy Works