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North Tonawanda History Museum gets funding boost

NORTH TONAWANDA – Members of the community are helping out the North Tonawanda History Museum by donating items for several new displays. They also are donating cash for a project to cover the museum’s big plate-glass windows.

Some of the new exhibits include the North Tonawanda High School Sports History Room, which includes a cheerleader megaphone, team jackets, a football helmet and photos of some of the area’s historic sports figures, teams and locations.

Also new is the Theater Heritage Exhibit, which features some of the area’s iconic theater memorabilia from Melody Fair, the Scenic Theatre, the Avondale Theatre and the Riviera Theatre.

A number of schools are included in the museum’s North Tonawanda Schools Heritage Exhibit, including items from the recently closed Gilmore School, a Pine Woods school bell, diplomas and a North Tonawanda Catholic School section.

The museum is located at 54 Webster St. in a former G.C. Murphy five-and-dime store. The good news is that the downtown space provides 10,000 square feet of space for displays, but the bad news is that the former retail store is lined with plate glass windows.

Sunlight is an enemy of preserving historical documents and displays, according to Donna Zeller Neal, the museum’s volunteer executive director.

“They represent a danger to our collection items and our other possessions because of the sunlight and UV rays,” she noted.

The window pane project is a twofold plan to decoratively cover the large retail-style windows of the former department store and at the same time provide promotional information about the museum, which does not have adequate signs, according to Neal and museum board members.

“We are trying to let people know we are not an antique store,” Neal said.

A suggestion by board member Larry Bartolomei to create promotional signs that also cover the windows was adopted by the museum board. Now 25 windows on Webster Street at the front and Manhattan Street in the rear are being covered.

Currently, seven sponsors have donated $400 to cover windows.

They are: An informational pane, sponsored by M. Bruce Miner of Sarastota, Fla.; an informational pane sponsored by James A. Maglisceau on behalf of the North Tonawanda High School Class of 1961; Wurlitzer Co. pane, sponsored by the Grajek family in memory of Stanley A. Grajek; Rand family pane, sponsored by members of the Benjamin Long Rand family; Webster Street pane, sponsored by the Cramer family; Pan-American pane, sponsored by Dean Kopcho; Richardson Boat Co. pane, sponsored by the Luke family. Sponsorships are in the works for the Tonawanda Island-River Road pane and the Erie Avenue/Walck Road/Zimmerman Street pane.

Opportunities for sponsorships are available for 12 more panes, which range from schools and church heritage to industrial and military heritage, as well as a number of other specialized exhibit-related panes and informational panes.

Information on the museum or pane sponsorships is available on the website at, on Facebook or Twitter, or by calling at 213-0554.