The city preservation board voted unanimously Wednesday night, to remove a century-old panel depicting what many say are racist images, from the carousel at Ontario Beach Park.
The Dentzel Carousel was built in 1905 and is owned by the City of Rochester but managed and operated by Monroe County. The images displayed on one of the carousel panels is called pickaninny art; this particular painting is of a rooster and two black children with caricature like features.
In January, the county gave the city permission to take down the panel as long as the city pays for its removal.
The preservation board’s approval was required because of the carousel’s landmark status.
Dozens attended Wednesdays preservation board meeting asking for the six members to vote to remove the panel. Jim Smith, the Communications Director for the City of Rochester was also at the meeting. Smith, on behalf of the city, proposed to remove the panel too. One possible plan proposed is to have the Rochester Museum and Science Center take the century-old panel and put something in its place.
“Once the panel comes down a replacement will be reproduced and kept with historic nature of the carousel but the community needs to be involved in determining what will be on it,” Smith said. “And then beyond that we need to determine what we’ll do with panel once it is removed, how it will be displayed? Will it be a traveling exhibit used throughout be community and at schools, possibly at Frederick Douglas recourse center, maybe travel to the Jim Crow museum out in the Midwest, so that’s another way we want to engage and involve the community.”
Not everyone at the meeting wanted the panel removed.
A community member said, “I strongly urge you to leave it where it is and take the money that people thought they would find somewhere and put it into something that will help this community.”
The preservation board did not see enough reason to stand in the way of this change.
While the Rochester Museum and Science Center will help the city in its efforts, there is no definitive answer yet on where the panel will be housed.
The city said its next steps is to engage the community about what the panel should be replaced with and what should be done with the old panel.
The panel could be taken down and changed by the carousel’s opening in the spring. There is no word on how much it will cost.