Music, history preserved in new Kleinhans Music Hall archives room, James Fink, Business First

Storied pieces of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Kleinhans Music Hall history, long buried in cardboard boxes, have been revived and put on public display.

As part of a $4 million Kleinhans Music Hall renovation project — tied in with the venerable West Side landmark’s 75th anniversary — a new archive room has made its debut. The room, located just off of the concourse on the hall’s second level, is a project that has been high on the BPO’s wish list. It became possible, courtesy of a $75,000 grant supplied by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

“In a way, it is a showcase of the story of Buffalo,” said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Community Foundation president and chief executive officer. “This room is a history of the community in so many ways.”

The Community Foundation’s roots trace back to the late Buffalo business and civic leaders Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans whose bequeathed estates to the foundation provided some of the seed money for Kleinhans’ development in 1940. Kleinhans, located where the former Avery Estate once stood, hosted its first Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert on Oct. 12, 1940.

Community Foundation funds along with other public and private donations contributed to the $1.335 million it cost to build Kleinhans. That translates to $22.5 million in current dollars.

The opening of the archives room ties in with not only Kleinhans Music Hall’s official 75th anniversary but also with the region hosting FinnFest, a gathering of those from Finnish decent, that has attracted several thousand visitors to the region for the past week. Kleinhans was designed by famed Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen.

“So many of these materials were just sitting a dark room,” said Dan Hart, BPO executive director. “Finally, people will be able to see these items and this collection.”

There are Kleinhans blueprints, black-and-white photos of the hall being constructed and a visiting artists’ book bearing such signatures the Von Trapp family, famed Russian conductor and composer Sergi Rachmaninoff and singers Paul Robeson and Zorah Berry to name a few.

n later years, classical music superstars such as Van Cliburn, Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang have joined ranks with the BPO on the Kleinhans stage while such rock acts as Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin all played there.

“The ties between Kleinhans Music Hall and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra are linked together,” Hart said. “This room really shows that link.”

Construction on the room began this summer as part of a renovation project that included replacing all the seats in the music hall, installing new carpeting and other behind-the-scenes upgrades.

The new archive room was previously just a storage area.

“Putting it here was the only place that made sense,” Hart said. “We did not have room for it on the main floor or anywhere else.”

Hart said the second phase of the archive room will be a study area for music and architectural scholars. That should be ready next year.

The room will be open for all concerts and also be appointment.