Finding Historic Souvenirs from New York’s Dunkirk Ice Cream
After decades of traveling and obtaining all sorts of dust collectors, I’m more selective in the souvenirs I bring home. I try to focus on art, jewelry and consumable items such as food or bath products to extend my journey. Driving back to Buffalo from Western Pennsylvania on Sunday, my parents spotted an estate sale on New York State Route 5 just south of Dunkirk, N.Y.
I’ll just admit right now, I broke my souvenir rule.
We wandered through the house which boasts a Lake Erie view. From second floor to the basement and every room in between, we looked at someone else’s treasures. Someone had an obvious horse obsession. There were equestrian dust-magnets (knickknacks), artwork and even a life-size wooden horse.
It was a walk through time with evidence of a once vibrant lifestyle with pieces of art and games to a deteriorating one with hospital beds and walkers. It was an odd mix such as vintage hats made in Buffalo to the Star Wars Trilogy on VHS.
In the basement we found bookoos of ice cream dishes. There were a variety of ice cream sundae glasses, bowls and dishes. There were champagne glasses and banana split boats.
“You do know who lived here, don’t you?” one of the women asked my Mom.
“The Dunkirk Ice Cream family” was the answer.
Dunkirk Ice Cream was founded in 1914 by William J. Wells and was owned and operated until 1996 when the company was acquired and renamed Fieldbrook Farms.
Sitting before us on the ping-pong table was Western New York history. It also explained the cute ice cream shop chairs that seemed a little pricey. (As in $49 for one with a heart in the chair back.)
Sure, we could hit a dollar store and get these items for a buck or maybe cheaper at a thrift store but can you put a price on history? Nope. These are priceless. (Okay, if you need to know, we negotiated to a dollar a piece.) My quandary now, what to do with them?
We learned the family is keeping the home and planning a renovation to update the mansion.
Leaving the estate, I noticed something fun. Something indicating the Wells family embraces their ice cream heritage. Above the fence protecting the estate from NY 5, I noticed ice cream cone shapes in wrought iron. It certainly made me smile when thinking of childhood visits to our local ice cream shops.