Jim and Mary Ann Sandoro’s passion for amassing Western New York memorabilia long ago turned the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum into a must-see for visitors and residents alike. And now they have added another important piece to that collection, this one featuring bicycles made between the 1860s and 1920s, with a focus on models connected to Western New York.
As the museum expands its exhibits, it enhances its role as a family-friendly attraction downtown. It will soon be joined by two others nearby at Canalside: the Explore & More Children’s Museum now taking shape and the planned solar-powered Herschell-Spillman wooden carousel.
The Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum, featuring the Frank Lloyd Wright Filling Station, is just a few blocks away at Michigan Avenue and Seneca Street.
Visitors will be fascinated to learn about how those early bicycles worked – and how anyone managed to ride them. Jim Sandoro can attest to the level of difficulty. He and his wife purchased an 1886 Columbia high-wheel bicycle for $325 in 1970 at a flea market outside of Cleveland.
Jim Sandoro rode that British-made bicycle – it sports a giant front wheel with a tiny back wheel and an equally tiny seat set high in the air – a couple of years later from Buffalo to Erie, Pa., the hard way – into the wind.
No matter. The couple’s curiosity for old bicycles had been piqued. It was time to start collecting, something they have been doing for a half-century. The new addition includes bikes they purchased in 2013 from the former Pedaling History Museum in Orchard Park, founded by Carl F. and Clary Burgwardt.
The Pierce-Arrow Museum put up more than $100,000, with assistance from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and the John R. Oishei Foundation, to buy the entire stock of locally produced bicycles. The purchase headed off an auction and kept the artifacts home in Western New York.
In one sense, the bicycle wheel had turned full circle. It was Sandoro who gave Carl Burgwardt his first ride on a high-wheel bike, which started his friend on bike collecting.
Clary Burgwardt’s insistence that as much of the collection as possible remain in Buffalo, and the Sandoros’ willingness to do just that, will benefit the public now able to look upon the wheels and spokes of bicycle history.