Heritage Discovery Center Opens this Month

Plans to open the Heritage Discovery Center will be detailed this week. The Center highlights the rich transportation and industrial heritage of the region. Located in South Buffalo, the historic building will be home to the Western New York Railway Historical Society as well as the permanent location of the Steel Plant Museum, which is relocating from Lackawanna. The ceremony takes place on November 10 at 2pm on the site and there will be a formal dedication of the administration building called the Don Owens Center at 100 Lee Street. In addition to the Steel Plant Museum, the Heritage Discovery Center is also welcoming the Buffalo Lighthouse Association as their newest member.

“The Heritage Discovery Center is about preserving our industrial heritage,” said Ed Patton, director of museum development for the Western New York Railway Historical Society. “For the railroad and steel plant museums, it represents the dedication of so many peopled committed to preserving the importance of the railroad and steelmaking heritage of our region. While these industries are now a past memory, the Heritage Discovery Center will preserve them for future generations.”

Last April, the Railway Society acquired approximately thirty-five acres of the former Buffalo Color site, bound by Elk and Lee Streets, South Park Avenue, and the Buffalo River.  The site was used to manufacture dye products for the food and clothing industries. The Heritage Discovery Center also purchased the former Buffalo Color Administration Building located at 100 Lee Street earlier this year. The purchase was made possible through the generous support of Don Owens, a principal in Earth Dimensions, Inc. of East Aurora and the building is being named in his honor. 

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Volunteers had their work cut out for them, cleaning, remodeling, painting and preparing the displays for the opening. The Heritage Discovery Center will welcome the general public on Saturday, November 12 from Noon until 5pm. There is no admission charge for this Community Open House and everyone is invited to see the new museum displays and view the development plans for the entire site.

“We are extremely grateful to South Buffalo Development, the New York State DEC and Honeywell for working together to remediate this site which will help us preserve and display important works of Buffalo’s industrial heritage and architecture,” said Joseph Kocsis, President of the Railway Society. “We are confident that the Heritage Discovery Center will become a cultural attraction that will make our region proud of its industrial heritage and the significant impact it has had on our community.”

“The Heritage Discovery Center has provided the Steel Plant Museum a long awaited opportunity to expand its mission of preserving the history of the steel industry and to tell the stories of the people who worked in and around the mills,” said Jim Carey, president, Steel Plant Museum of Western New York

h3.jpg“The City of Buffalo has one of the greatest legacies of industrial innovation in our nation and the Heritage Discovery Center will present that proud history for the public to see and understand in this location on the former Buffalo Color site,” said Mayor Brown. “It is fitting that this former industrial site will be remediated and put to a new use that will celebrate our past while presenting new opportunities for the future. I commend all of the partners that have come together to make this project succeed.”

“New York State is committed to seeing Brownfield sites cleaned-up and reestablished as economic and environmental assets to their communities,” said DEC Regional Director Abby Snyder.  “Revitalization of this site will transform a once blighted property into what will become a community asset, and reflects the positive impact that effective and collaborative partnerships can foster.” 

For more information about the Heritage Discovery Center, visit www.wnyrhs.com and for more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the former Buffalo Color site, visit www.buffalocolorredevelopment.com.

Final Image courtesy of David Torke of fixbuffalo

About the author  ⁄ Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

5 comments
RaChaCha
RaChaCha

The facility temporarily housing exhibits is owned by the Center, and will remain in use for Center offices, as well as (it's 2 stories) offices for some other allied organizations such as the Lighthouse preservation group and the Industrial Heritage Committee.

Eventually, the former power house will be used for the center (see entry image), and some other former Buffalo Color buildings will be used, as well -- some for storage of the Center's extensive collections of railroad-related items and some as workshops. The Western New York chapter of the National Railway Historical Society has about 4 dozen pieces of railroad rolling stock, and needs facilities for maintenance and refurbishment.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I am confused about the site that will be open. Is it the old color dye/Schoelkopf plant, or the temporary facility?

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

They're ready for visitors now -- there will be plenty unfolding in coming months and years to keep people coming back. The project flew largely under the radar of many in the community, although Buffalo Rising has kept folks in the loop. With everything in the works for the site, as it unfolds folks will be GOBSMACKED. Stay tuned.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

This is amazing but, I must confess, I am a bit in the dark about this project. It looks like it has a long way to go before being ready for visitors.

Does the Society own the building (I heard it was leased)? From where did the money come (some came from a private donor, and I remember Higgins secured some $)?

I also understand that some AMAZING steel "monuments" (former machinery) were demolished in the site "clean-up". Really too bad-I would think that they could have been an interesting component to the museum.

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