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North Tonawanda History Museum will move to former bowling alley

The North Tonawanda History Museum, forced out of its downtown site by a mortgage foreclosure, will set up shop in a former bowling alley and banquet hall on Oliver Street.

Executive Director Howard W. Roeske Jr. said Monday that he hopes to open the new museum in late September at 712 Oliver St., a vacant one-story building formerly known as Deluxe Lanes and more recently as Caesar's Palace, a banquet facility.

The museum had to leave the former G.C. Murphy Co. department store at 54 Webster St. after defaulting on a mortgage signed in 2009 by Roeske's predecessor, the late Donna Zellner Neal.

Niagara County land records show the Oliver Street site was purchased for $180,000 last month by Friends of North Tonawanda History, a newly formed group of locals whose president is Kim Monkiewicz.

The Friends are renting the space to the museum. Roeske wouldn't disclose the price, but he said, "For the museum, they made it very affordable."

 

The museum intends to have all its remaining artifacts out of the Webster Street location by the end of the week, allowing it to begin setting up the new, smaller museum.

"The museum gallery is going to be scaled back," Roeske said. "The layout is going to tell the story of this area from before recorded history to the late 20th century."

Three displays are envisioned around the walls of the building: an old-time school classroom, an ice cream parlor and a living room and kitchen.

Roeske said there will be separate exhibits on Wurlitzer Co. products, scouting and military veterans.

Near the entrance of the building, in what used to be a bar and lounge, a community room will be created for the museum to hold its popular book sales and host meetings for other groups.

Two of the original eight bowling lanes in the building survive, and will be kept operable as a fun offering for use during school field trips and other gatherings, Roeske said.

Court records show the museum never made a single payment on its prior mortgage, held by Regent Properties, the former owner of the Webster Street site.

A report by Amherst attorney Anthony J. Latona, who refereed the July 2 auction of the Webster Street property, concluded that the museum owed $636,468 to Regent, a California company.

Latona said the winning bid at the auction was $499,500, which didn't cover the amount owed.

"That's correct, but I'm glad to have it off my hands," said Vadim Gorobets, Regent Properties president. "I waited for many years."

He wouldn't disclose the name of the winning bidder, who has until July 23 to complete payment. Latona said it was a Western New York company.

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