Tonawanda News

The Tonawandas

May 10, 2014

Historical Society moves archives into new building

Tonawanda News — After searching for more than two-and-half-years, the Historical Society of the Tonawandas has purchased a new building for its archives — a move that the director says will give the organization an opportunity to grow.

The group, which used room in Central School for its archives free of charge for 35 years, was forced to find a new location after the Tonawanda City School District put the building on the market and then sold it last year.

“We’ve been looking for two-and-a-half or three years for a building. We set up a building committee, and all we did was look at space ... churches, buildings, houses, and we even considered putting up our own structure,” Director Patrick Barnard said.

The group was in need of a large space — between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet —  to hold all of its belongings that aren’t currently part of an exhibit — everything from a War of 1812 collection to old restaurant menus.

But as a nonprofit that doesn’t charge entry into the Main Street museum and only obtains funds through membership dues, the society was constrained by finances and had a difficult time finding a structure that would fit into its budget.

Eventually, Barnard was told about a vacant office building at the corner of Seymour Street and Broad Street that wasn’t yet on the market. The two-story building, which once housed medical and law offices, had sustained some damage and couldn’t be put up for sale publicly until it was repaired. 

The building, which was part of local attorney Robert Levi’s estate, also doesn’t have an elevator and isn’t handicapped-accessible — so it couldn’t be opened to the public. 

“We ended up giving them an as-is offer. We said ‘let us worry about getting it ready for occupancy and give us a lower price,’” Barnard said. 

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