Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News
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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

'Fandalism' discovered

The rivalry that some Pittsburgh Steelers fans harbor toward the Bills must be industrial strength.

How else to explain the willful defacement of a locomotive named “the Tim Russert?”

The Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad engine, named in honor of the late “NBC Meet the Press” moderator and South Buffalo native, was recently tracked down at a rail yard in Pittsburgh. Prior to its return to Buffalo last week for use in the ceremonial opening of a new rail line at the old Bethlehem Steel complex in Lackawanna, it was discovered that someone – presumably, a Steelers fan – had painted over the “Go Bills” emblem affixed to the side of the locomotive.

Fortunately, the damage was fixed in time for the ceremony.

Overlooked but not forgotten

One of Buffalo's architectural gems, The Hotel @ the Lafayette, was spotlighted this week in the Wall Street Journal's online magazine, Speakeasy.

Author Carla Blank chronicles the grand lady's remarkable history from Gilded Age showplace and preferred stopover of U.S. presidents, heartbreaking descent into derelict flophouse to its splashy, $43 million restoration into one of the crown jewels in the city's downtown landscape.

The article also pays homage to the hotel's architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune, a grand lady in her own right. In 1889, the Watertown native became the first woman ever to become a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Yet, Blank laments, the National Women's Hall of Fame on three occasions has rejected Bethune's induction to its ranks.

While that oversight is waiting to be corrected, Bethune is set to be prominently featured in Blank's soon-to-be-published book, “Storming the Old Boy's Citadel: Pioneer Women Architects of 19th Century North America.”

String 'em along

Those holding out hope for the rise of the humble yo-yo were left dangling.

The 2013 New York State Yo-Yo Championships planned for this weekend at Niagara Hobby & Craft Mart in Cheektowaga had to be canceled for lack of entrants. It would have been a first-of-its-kind event for this region, bringing in yo-yoers from three states, as well as Canada, and one from as far away as Malaysia, according to John Kavulich, president of Niagara Hobby.

“We canceled some time ago due to not having the numbers we needed to justify the $3,300 in prize money,” Kavulich said. “We had less than 50, but needed a couple hundred.”

Still, Kavulich is determined to reel in more participants next year and make it all happen.

“Sometimes events suffer from newness,” he said, “and the first one is the hardest.”

Documented thefts

Ontario resident Christine Ridout paid $3 for a cardboard glove box at a Buffalo estate sale last year. The box contained six old handwritten parchment documents. One of them was from 1771 and signed by William Franklin. He was the last colonial governor of New Jersey and illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. Another, dated 1710, bore the royal seal of England's Court of St. James.

“I thought I hit the jackpot; I was all excited, like I had a winning lottery ticket,” Ridout told the Philadelphia Inquirer recently. That was before she learned that the theft of at least five of the six pages had been reported to the New Jersey State Police and FBI, saying they were “missing or alienated” from state records files.

While the market for colonial New Jersey memorabilia is small, an expert told the Inquirer, the find could have been worth a few thousand dollars, had the items not been stolen.

Ridout, who goes to a lot of estate sales and doesn't recall the specific house where she bought the box, has been asked to mail the documents to the New Jersey State Archives, but she is hoping to deliver them personally. In the end, her reward may come in the form of a free trip to Trenton.

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions from Jay Rey and Melinda Miller. email:

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