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Photos of former Kleinhans store to be displayed at music hall

An album of circa 1930s photographs of window displays at the former Kleinhans menswear store was unveiled Wednesday at its new home in Kleinhans Music Hall, where an archives room will be restored to display it.

A $75,000 grant by Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, honoring the 75th anniversary of the music hall built by Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans, will pay for the restoration. Several donors collectively paid $13,000 to buy the photo album during a December auction through Swann Galleries of New York City.

“Kleinhans Music Hall is honored to accept this grant,” said Christopher Brown, chairman of Kleinhans’ board of directors.

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo was bequeathed the estates of the Kleinhans, who made their fortune from the clothing store, and shared a love for music and the arts.

The Kleinhans died within three months of each other in 1934. Their will included a wish to build a music hall for the enjoyment and benefit of people in Western New York; Kleinhans Music Hall opened in 1940.

The first phase of the archive room restoration project is expected to completed by the fall. The room also will display Kleinhans Music Hall renderings, artifacts and photographs.

In the meantime, the album will be kept at Buffalo & Erie County Public Library; it won’t be on display.

“We are honored that Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans entrusted the Foundation to see through their vision of building a music hall in our community,” said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “We are proud to continue honoring their legacy 75 years later and make it possible for all who enter Kleinhans to learn about its history.”

The more than 220 silver print photos recorded the fashion tableaux that changed with the seasons in the windows of the Brisbane Building. The store went out of business in 1992, but the photographs, each measuring approximately 7½ by 9½ inches, survived in excellent condition.

The photographs are considered examples of “vernacular” photography – “material that falls outside the realm of fine art photos,” the director of photographs for Swann Galleries told The Buffalo News in December. Vernacular photos can be snapshots, commercial pictures or scientific images – photos whose original purpose has now somewhat elevated outside interest in them.