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...Treasure Hunt

Walking through the gatehouse of Dream Island feels a bit like the wardrobe door to Narnia. Situated in the now suburban historic village of Williamsville, nestled just downstream from major freeways that connect the continuous "northtowns" to Buffalo city, it seems impossible that this little island could feel so much like another world. For some it conjures visions of the European countryside; children see fairytales and might look for the dragon, princess or knight. Even the most non-nostalgic grown-ups melt into wonder as they consider the process of building these stone structures by hand using primarily found and reclaimed objects.

Historic photo of Oeschner's Castle. Photo is fuzzy, but shows the main castle building, a rock sculpture and paths.
Image from Buffalo, The City Beautiful: Its Homes, Gardens and Environs. Author: Mark Hubbell. 1931

We know little about the man that built the island or his motivations. We've been contacted by a few extended family members that did not know him personally. We have postcards, excerpts from a 1931 book and a few news clippings. We have the top level story as narrated in histories, a few notes on artisans that contributed pieces, but as we have started work to remove overgrowth, weeds and non-original or damaged interiors we discover treasures - clues if you will - of the overall vision.

abstract rock sculpture made with whirlpool carved rocks or similar, surrounded by aggregate concrete path circa 1920s and overgrowth.
Rock sculpture seen in 1931 photo today. The Atlantic White Cedar (chamaecyparis thyoides) also occupied the island.

As we begin in earnest the process of resurrecting the vision of Ignatz Oeschner, we also continue to explore the details and piece together information. We'd love to hear from folks that knew Ignatz or his family or others that worked on the castle up to the mid 1940s. We believe that this story is one that reflects Western New York - how some of the most notable signatures of the Village were shaped by a tradesman who came here with nothing, not the famous or wealthy.

If you have information to share email us at or use the contact form at the bottom of our home page.

Please note that although Dream Island may seem like a great place to explore, hang out or otherwise visit, it is not open to the public. Inconsiderate visitors resulting in property damage and safety considerations have forced a strict no trespassing policy. The property is video monitored. Look for future posts discussing education opportunities on the island.

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1 Comment

Karen Baker
Karen Baker
Mar 17, 2022

Is work being done on the island now?

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