This past August if you visited the Erie County Fair’s Heritage and History Center, on the fair’s Avenue of Flags, you would have seen the fair’s original McKinley Gate lamps (one destroyed and one refurbished) displayed. The McKinley Gate, a forty-foot iron gate, was, and is, the ceremonial entrance to the Erie County Fair. It was constructed by Buffalo’s Eberl Iron Works in 1929 and is located on McKinley Parkway. The McKinley Gate was dedicated in 1930. The lamps on display adorned the top of the gate and were destroyed in the 2017 tornado that raced through Hamburg and the fairgrounds.
The gate’s creators, Eberl Iron Works, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. It was founded in 1923 as a small welding shop fabricating wrought iron railings, exterior fire escapes, and other iron-based projects. Over the past 100 years Eberl has grown its product lines and expanded its facility until it is now organized into 5 divisions — Metal Fabrication Services, Rooftop Support Systems, Traffic Safety Products, Unistrut Buffalo Supports, and Stair Components and Systems. It is a third-generation family-owned business located on Sycamore Street in Buffalo.
Although the company’s history with the fair started with the McKinley Gate, the company also worked with the Allan Herschel Company to create the Sky Wheel Double Ferris Wheel. These ferris wheels were made between 1960 and 1970 and were a mainstay at James E. Strates shows all over the country. Eberl fabricated the aluminum seats and footrests. A Sky Wheel Double Ferris Wheel was a signature attraction on the Erie County Fair’s midway for more than 30 years starting in 1963. A seat from the ferris wheel is also displaced at the Heritage and History Center.
When you visit the fair in 2024 consider visiting this center to see the history of the fair in pictures and artifacts and experience how the fair has changed over the years.