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HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S RESTORATION ESTIMATES SOAR

More than a century ago, government and private sources pooled $150,000 to erect the New York State Building for the Pan-American Exposition -- a white marble temple that stood just inside the Elmwood Avenue gate.

In this Pan-American Centennial year, a similar public-private partnership is being assembled to restore and revitalize the magnificent Greek Revival structure housing the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and its satellite Resource Center on Forest Avenue.

As it turns out, the cost will be far greater than expected -- $7 million, more than double what the Historical Society projected last March.

Rehabilitating the weakened marble staircase leading to Hoyt Lake, waterproofing the leaky basement of the landmark building and installing an air-tight climate control system will be far more expensive than originally thought, Executive Director William H. Siener acknowledged Thursday after accepting $250,000 in state money for exterior repairs.

Other factors have since come into play, forcing a steep upward revision of the $3.4 million estimate of restoration and improvement costs, he said. Among them:

The recent recovery of a Pan-American ticket booth that was moved to the lawn of a Gardenville residence after the exposition closed. The structure is being restored at society expense for the centennial celebration starting in May.

Higher than anticipated costs of conserving artifacts brought out of mothballs for special centennial exhibitions, and of installing interactive devices as part of those programs.

The decision to commission a feasibility study "identifying additional space we're eventually going to need" as the Nottingham Court museum assumes a greater role in local cultural tourism. Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, wants the museum to become "the jumping-off point" for people visiting Buffalo's architectural and cultural treasures.

"The $7 million includes more than just capital work," Siener said.

The total does not include the multimillion dollar construction of a rare books facility in the museum, scheduled to begin early next year, he noted.

About $2.2 million is in hand for the restoration, including Erie County, state and city funds, said Linda G. Ray, senior development director.

Another $3.3 million in public funds -- some of it federal money -- will be sought, as well as $1.5 million from private sources, she said.

The $250,000 presented Thursday by Tokasz and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, came from the state's Strategic Investment Program, which sees arts and culture as an engine of economic growth.

In 1901 the building stood for "all that was great about Buffalo," Hoyt said. The restoration, he added, will ensure that it "continues to represent all that is great about Buffalo."

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