By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Although hundreds, maybe thousands, of Western New York residents drive past the Town of Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society Museum on any given day, most of them have never been inside ... or have no idea what role the steepled brick building between Delaware and Elmwood avenues serves these days.
But if they’ve ever wondered ... today’s their lucky day.
An open house will take place from noon to 6 p.m. today at the museum, 100 Knoche Road, Town of Tonawanda. Ed Adamczyk, Kenmore historian, said that it’s an effort to expand the usual hours (1:30 to 4 p.m. the second and fourth Sundays of every month) to lure in a few of those passers-by.
“It’s dedicated to all the people who say, ‘I always wanted to come up but never get the chance’ or ‘I know where the building is, but never made it out there,’ “ he said. “Now’s their big chance.
“We want people to know we’re around. We’re a source of information and I think people should know about us.”
The building was erected in 1949 as a German evangelical church, a role it served until 1967. Three years later, it was acquired by the Town of Tonawanda and opened as a museum in 1976. Today, after three major repair projects and other smaller ones, it continues in that role, playing host to monthly presentations and home to countless artifacts, photos and information on the Kenmore-Tonawanda area.
“I can’t tell you the number of people who say they’re driven by on the 290, they’ve seen the building .. but they’ve never stopped in,” said John Percy, Town of Tonawanda historian since 1973.
The society’s mission manifests itself in a variety of ways, including monthly presentations on a variety of topics from Crystal Beach (which drew a crowd) to the history of quilting. Upcoming topics for the presentations, which take place at 7:15 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month, include the War of 1812 and the Curtiss-Wright Corp.
“The idea of getting people together and in one room at one time seems to be going out of style. People have other commitments,” Adamczyk said. “We’re doing something a bit anachronistic around here ... trying to encourage people to show up together and listen to something.”
The 163-year-old building also houses a lot of history not only in the form of the former church itself, but the work and collections of historical society members and volunteers.
“We’ve had a lot of volunteers over the years who’ve done some wonderful things,” Percy said.
A research center houses 80 notebooks full of historical information about the area. There are many old photographs, including more than 1,000 digitalized pictures, and nearly every yearbook from Kenmore East and Kenmore West high schools and Kenmore High School that preceded them.
A new exhibit on Kenmore is in progress, joining other exhibits including an Erie Canal diorama and an exhibit on aircraft produced in the Ken-Ton area.
“We have some remarkable history here,” Adamczyk said. “We have the Erie Canal. We have take the credit for winning World War II in our factories. And somebody’s got to look after this stuff.
“And that’s where we come in.”IF YOU GO • WHAT: Open house • WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. today • WHERE: Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society Museum, 100 Knoche Road, Town of Tonawanda. • MORE INFO: Call 873-5774.