Update: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the county has decided not to remove the controversial imagery from the Dentzel Carousel, but to instead commission the Landmark Society of Western New York to create a series of informational panels, according to the following statement from a county spokesman:
“The county has been in dialogue with the Landmark Society. The 110-year-old carousel, which appears in its original state, was designated as an official landmark by the city of Rochester in 1980, and we have no plans to alter it. The county has begun the process of contracting with the Landmark Society to research the carousel as an historic community resource, and develop interesting interpretive panels that will address, in a scholarly and descriptive manner, all aspects of the carousel, from its hand carving and manufacture by German immigrants in Pennsylvania, and placement at Ontario Beach, to its extensive restoration in the 1990s, and present day significance as one of the few such carousels to remain in its original location. Included among these interpretive panels will be one that deals with the specific rounding board image in question as a teachable moment for those who view it. Our goal is to have these panels in place for the carousel’s opening of the 2016 season, which will be its 111th year at Ontario Beach Park.”
Although several community members spoke out against possible racist imagery on the carousel at Ontario Beach Park at a Rochester Preservation Board hearing Aug. 5, city municipal attorney Thomas Warth said it’s up to Monroe County to remove the controversial image.
“The county manages and runs it as if it was the owner until 2060, so only they have the option of proposing any change,” Warth stated.
As a result, Warth said the county would have to present a formal application to the board, before the board could remove the image.
Local anti-racism activists said the 110-year-old carousel features a crude drawing of African-American children on one of the top panels, which could be considered racist.
Currently, the carousel, which is owned by the city and operated by Monroe County, has been designated as a historic landmark. Previously, county officials said any changes to the carousel would require approval from the city’s preservation board.
Wayne Goodman, executive director of the Landmark Society of Western reportedly has released the following statement regarding the issue:
“Our organization is interested in the preservation of the resource as a whole. I believe there to be several courses that the city and county could pursue, but our position is that we would be interested in assisting the city and county with any needed preservation technical assistance requested. Our organization’s focus needs to be aimed at the resource, which we have commended the community for preserving for over 110 years. It is an exceptionally rare resource. Whatever the community decides, we would provide technical assistance if needed. Since we do not own, operate or control the carousel, our involvement needs to remain tied to our mission. I think the community as a whole is the appropriate voice for an issue like this.”