Over the years, I’ve spent some time at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum, but it wasn’t until this week that I truly grasped the future of the museum, and its impact on Buffalo.
First of all, can you imagine what the Pierce Arrow car image would be, locally, if it was not for Jim and Mary Ann Sandoro, owners of the museum? Honestly, there might be a few semi-notable odes to the classic car, which was made in Buffalo, but nothing compared to the impeccable dedication that the Sandoro’s have managed to put together. Not to mention the even broader history pertaining to this city’s various modes of transportation, including trains and planes. Over the years, the couple has managed to collect just about everything under the sun, as it relates to Buffalo and transportation, including upwards of 130 bicycles from The Pedaling History Museum.
Currently, the museum houses only a small part of the Sandoro’s tremendous collection, which is why Jim has been busy purchasing buildings that surround the museum. These buildings include the Buffalo Social Security administration headquarters that is found directly behind the museum, bounded between Carroll Street and Exchange Street. The Sandoros are also currently in the process of acquiring Carrol Street from the City – it looks as if they will get the green light on the acquisition.
While the Social Security building is currently occupied, their lease is up in the spring – Jim Sandoro says that he might give them a little leeway, but the pressure is on for them to find a new home. If all goes according to plan, the museum will begin to occupy the 35,000 square foot building in 2020, for its cars, a place to show historic films, and additional display space for its countless pieces of transportation memorabilia, most of which is stored in boxes, away from public viewing.
Sandoro also pointed out that he had recently purchased property two blocks to the east of the museum – a site formerly owned by Ethox Medical. In order to connect that set of buildings and parking lots to the growing museum footprint, the Sandoro’s are in talks with the City to acquire North Carroll Street – that acquisition is also being looked upon favorably by Common Council and The Mayor.
Once all of these properties and streets are cobbled together, the museum will encompass 300,000 square feet of interior showroom space, along with outdoor fairgrounds that can accommodate 600 cars, tents, and public spaces. A section of the Ethox Medical building will be converted into a bar and restaurant called the Dan Montgomery Speakeasy. Sandoro told me that the original Dan Montgomery Speakeasy was once housed in a nearby building. The interior was filled to the brim with all sorts of beautiful furniture, bars, signs, leaded glass windows… it was terrific, until the structure was ruined by water damage (burst pipe). But Sandoro managed to salvage just about everything, and will be recreating the interior of the new dining establishment, as close as he can to the way he remembers it. He has all of the historic pieces of the puzzle ready to go – the Dan Montgomery Speakeasy will be dedicated to the history of brewing and distilling in Buffalo… a tribute to the history of the immediate neighborhood, in fact. The rest of the Ethox Medical building will be dedicated to Pierce Arrow and transportation displays, as well as the growing collection of automobiles, many of which are not currently displayed.
Over the years there have been a number of significant stages when it comes to the astounding growth at the museum. The Frank Lloyd Wright filling station was one of those milestones – another is the recent acquisition of these aforementioned buildings and (pending) city streets. Once these new parts are fashioned together with the existing museum components – Buffalo will be home to the largest transportation museum of this nature in the world, according to Sandoro. At the same time, we are finally seeing the formations of another district, similar to Chandlerville, or Silo City.
It is the museum’s mission to return Buffalo made transportation items back to Buffalo. Donations are welcomed in anticipation of expanding to a 12 acre Downtown Buffalo campus in the next three years, with over 300,000 square feet of display space.
The new museum campus vision will morph and expand accordingly, in order to accommodate the one-of-a-kind pieces and collections that the Sandoros continue to collect (and store offsite). Each week there are incoming phone calls from all over the world, from people who have managed to acquire significant pieces befitting the museum. “We’re bringing it all back to the place it belongs,” Sandoro told me. “This is where it all began – Buffalo’s transportation history is something to behold. And we’re here to tell the story.”