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RESTORATION OF 1878 BILLBOARD FEATURING 'BUFFALO BILL' IS PROCEEDING AT FULL TILT

One piece of the puzzle is in place in a meticulous effort to restore an 1878 billboard promoting a Jamestown appearance by "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

A restored portion of the 24-by-10-foot billboard depicts John Nelson, a mountain man and friend of Cody's, who traveled with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Five more sections remain to be restored.

The billboard was discovered in June 2002 beneath a crumbling brick facade workmen were tearing down at Third and Pine streets.

Pat Anzideo, secretary of the Civic Center and ad hoc project manager for the Buffalo Bill project, also announced that the Civic Center has received a $52,059 matching grant, one of 60 Save America's Treasures grants to be awarded nationwide, which will pay for the remainder of the restoration work.

"We believe that it was this initial conservation work -- clearly demonstrating that the restoration process was feasible -- is in part the basis for our receiving the federal grant," she said.

Toward that end, Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which helped fund the initial phase of the restoration, on Friday pledged $8,000 toward the match.

"We are already receiving calls and inquiries from all over the country from people who want to come and see it, once it's installed in the inner lobby of the Civic Center," David Schein, executive director of the Reg Lenna Civic Center, said during the media gathering Friday.

Also on hand was Suzanna Cody, great-grandniece of Buffalo Bill Cody, who thanked Civic Center officials for recognizing the importance of the billboard.

"We are honored to be among people who are committed and dedicated to sustainable community," she said. "I think Bill Cody would also be quite honored to be a part of this."

Anzideo said the overriding reason this section of the billboard was selected for restoration is because, "It was the most intact section of the billboard."

". . . We knew exactly what it was going to look like," she said. "Imagine if you were given hundreds of pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle, and had to put it together, without any idea what the picture was. Here, we knew what the picture was."

"The construction crew that uncovered this billboard knew they had stumbled upon a true piece of American art," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who helped secure the grant through the program established by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

And Juti Winchester, curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo., said the billboard provided not only a glimpse into the past of Buffalo Bill, but into the history of American theater.

William F. Cody, who died in 1917, was a Pony Express rider and Civil War veteran who hunted buffalo to feed railroad construction crews.

He became a folk hero in the "Buffalo Bill" dime novels of Ned Buntline, who in 1872 persuaded him to tell his stories of the Wild West on stage.

The Buffalo Bill Combination toured the country for 10 years until 1883, when Cody began the Wild West Show.

News wire services contributed to this report.

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