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Welcome symbol graciously restored Sculpture donation to block on Potomac fills void from theft

A glistening thin metal sculpture of a buffalo was unveiled Tuesday at Potomac and Richmond avenues as the new welcome sign for the 400 Potomac block.

The sculpture was donated by Samuel, Son & Co., a metal-processing company that had no prior relation to the Potomac 400 Block Club. It replaces a smaller one that was stolen in February, when witnesses said that it was vandalized and carried off by a small group of men.

Despite a reward offered by Common Council Member David A. Rivera of the Niagara District, the club was unable to recover the previous sculpture that served as a welcome sign for their West Side block.

Employees at Samuel, Son & Co. heard about the theft of the sculpture -- which was valued at $1,000 -- and decided to contact the block club about replacing it.

"Someone from the company saw it on the news and contacted us to see what they could do," said Dennis Foustner, vice president of the block club. "We hadn't had any previous relation with them."

The new sculpture was given to the Potomac 400 Block Club free of charge, whereas the original sculpture had been financed through an award from Rivera's block club grant program, and private donations from block club members.

Upon revealing the statue from underneath its blue vinyl cover, Rivera thanked Samuel, Son & Co. for their graciousness and consideration. He also thanked the block club members and said they deserved the new statue because of their dedication to beautifying the block.

The 400 block of Potomac is among the most exciting places to live on Buffalo's West Side due to the activity, sculptures and property value, he said.

In addition to donating the steel for the statue, Samuel, Son & Co. hired an industrial painter to donate his time and talents, and to blast and paint the new statue.

"It was a no-brainer," said Keith Mitchell, vice president and general manager of Samuel, Son & Co. "We said let's rally our troops and get together and replace the statue. We'd do it again."

Residents of the 400 block of Potomac are pleased with the new statue and thankful for the graciousness of Samuel, Son & Co.

"This sculpture's actually more attractive than the original," said Michael Franco, a resident of the 400 block. "The other one wasn't as accented; this is great. It's such a beautiful piece that just welcomes people into the neighborhood."

The new sculpture includes reinforced welding and a better-designed anchor in order to deter future theft or vandalism. Dave Mac-Hardiman, one of the block club's original members, said he feels that the larger size of the statue also will help prevent theft.

Said Mac-Hardiman: "It's more noticeable, and it's bigger. No one can take it."