NORTH TONAWANDA – The North Tonawanda History Museum officially opened 10 years ago today and will begin its 10th anniversary celebration with an anniversary cake from Budwey’s and an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at its building, 54 Webster St.
A number of new exhibits, including the Payne Avenue Exhibit Hall, are being added to the 10,000 square feet of existing exhibits.
Executive Director Donna Zellner Neal said that when the idea of a North Tonawanda museum was proposed in 2003, no one envisioned they would receive a provisional charter less than a year later, on April 20, 2004, and less than five years later move into the former G.C. Murphy’s store with plenty of room for exhibits.
She said attendance has steadily increased. In 2011, they had 17,000 visitors, in 2012 there were 17,483, and last year there were 18,840.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, there will be a program on the War of 1812 presented by John W. Percy, a Town of Tonawanda historian for 40 years. Percy is an ex-officio trustee and advisory committee member of the North Tonawanda History Museum. He will focus on major battles during the war, with particular emphasis on the Great Lakes campaigns and Western New York.
The Payne Avenue Exhibit Hall has been expanded from a temporary exhibit into its own room through the work of volunteers Marg and Bill Bauza, Penny Buterbaugh-Naimi and Benton Hiltz II.
Other things visitors can peruse: an exhibit on the Niagara Savings and Loan Association; a black metal piece of a steam heating system from American District Steam; and displays on the Albert Blachowicz barbershop and Frontier Chocolate.
In addition, new displays continue to be added.
A North Tonawanda High School classmate of the late Dr. Robert James Reszel has made an anonymous donation to the museum to launch a memorial fund in his memory. Reszel, the chief of staff at DeGraff Memorial Hospital for 20 years and a member and past president of the North Tonawanda Board of Education for 18 years, died March 17.
The museum will create an exhibit on the life of Reszel and his father, Thaddeus Reszel, and will accept donations of photos and other memorabilia about their lives.
A permanent plaque with the names of those contributing to the Robert J. Reszel Memorial Fund will be part of the exhibit.
The classmate making the first donation included the following note with his donation, “The outstanding thing about Bob is that he stayed home and contributed heavily to his community, whereas many of us moved away. This is rare in this day and age. Understandably, as industrial job opportunities disappeared.”
Donations can be made to the museum, marking them “Memorial Fund – Reszel.”