The Penney Gallery

Contractors are hard at work creating what will become the Penney Gallery at the Erie Canal Discovery Center. The Penney Gallery will be the new home for the Niagara Collection of renowned area collector Charles Rand Penney who donated his amazing collection of over 5,000 historic treasures from Niagara County’s 200-plus year history to the Niagara County Historical Society, now called simply, the History Center. Mr. Penney’s previous philanthropic gifts include the donation of his huge collection of Charles Burchfield paintings to Buffalo State College which at that time helped create the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. The History Center itself had a long history with Charles Penney, who was a life member and served on its board of directors in the 1960s. Melissa Dunlap, executive director for the History Center described Penney as “the quintessential collector who not only collected objects, but preserved the story behind the objects.” Penney was a lifelong collector who had the financial wherewithal to travel the globe, and as such, the whole world was the subject of his collecting. In addition to helping to create the Burchfield-Penney and soon the Penney Gallery, Penney also gifted portions of his collections to the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University, Buffalo Museum of Science, and other area well-known cultural facilities. The History Center began its plan to build the Penney Gallery in September 2008 when it received word from Charles Penney that he needed a new home for his collection and had hoped the Center would find a way to exhibit and store his treasure trove of commercial products, paintings by regional artists, local curiosities, ephemera and much more. Fast forward through two years of planning and fund raising, and the new Penney Gallery and Research Room at the Erie Canal Discovery Center is taking shape. The History Center is constructing a 1,500 square-foot mezzanine gallery at its 24 Church Street location and also is re-purposing an existing space to provide a new research facility to accommodate inquiries about and provide access to materials in Penney’s collection and in the History Center’s other holdings. These two new additions to the facility will provide the ability for the Erie Canal Discovery Center to expand its operation to be open 12 months of the year. The History Center is quick to credit Mark Glynn of Glynn Group Geotechnical Engineers for their assistance with planning and the financial help of its two largest supporters, the Grigg-Lewis Foundation and Niagara County through the NYPA Niagara River Greenway Commission. Doug Farley, History Center director of development noted the need for additional funding. “Ongoing care and preservation of a huge collection like this is going to be essential to our success. These are fragile assets that could turn to dust if not stored and handled with utmost care.” In order to raise additional funds for this purpose, the History Center is hosting the “Past, Penney and Future Gala,” to be held at the Center on August 20th. This will be the official opening dedication ceremony and will also celebrate the History Center’s 90th anniversary of service to the community. Businesses are encouraged to assist by becoming sponsors of the event and area friends and residents are asked to purchase tickets for the gala celebration, catered by Lockport Town and Country Club. For more information, contact the History Center at 434-7433.

The History Center of Niagara

The History Center of Niagara

New exhibit featuring advertising-emblazoned merchandise from the collection of the late Dr. Charles Rand Penney. All are from businesses with Lockport or Niagara County connections. This exhibit is the companion to the "Penney Trail" exhibit at the Erie Canal Discovery Center. Photos by Ken Boyd.

Lockport - Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Lockport - Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Happening this Friday. A good old fashioned night out.

Niagara Art Trail

Niagara Art Trail

“Capturing History” Photographers’ Exhibit Opening Saturday August 13, 2016

For many years three men have been capturing local history from behind their camera lenses for the Niagara County Historical Society. Whether it’s snapping photos at events, photographing changes as old buildings come down and new ones go up, documenting progress as our community reinvents itself, or gathering images for historic publications, Bruce Aikin, Ken Boyd, and Norm Pearson have helped visually preserve our history each in their own unique way.

Behind any successful organization there are unsung heroes behind the scenes and these three definitely fit that description. Many historic publications produced locally would not be the same without the visual representations they provide. Dozens of binders fill shelves at the History Center, each containing hundreds of photos. It can be is easy to forget details of even the most recent history and these photos help jog our memories and put things in perspective in regards to both space and time in a way that only a photograph can. Thanks to these three we are capturing history while we are in the moment.

To honor and thank them for their hard work and dedication The Niagara Art Trail in cooperation with the Niagara County Historical Society is pleased to present “Capturing History” , an exhibit showcasing a handful of the thousands of photographs in the History Center’s archives. The exhibit opens on Saturday, August 13th, 2016 at the Erie Canal Discovery Center, 24 Church Street, Lockport. The photographers will step out from behind their cameras and be on hand from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm to share their thoughts and discuss their photography. Light refreshments will be served. The exhibit will remain on display through October 1st. Photos on display will showcase transitions in our landscape, historic moments, and local events. There will also be some chosen simply for their artistry rather than historic value.

Photo: Lockport’s changing skyline by Norm Pearson

Niagara Art Trail

Niagara Art Trail

The Niagara Art Trail is pleased to present “The Aerial Artist” , an exhibit of photographs by local photographer/pilot Richard "Dick" Gallagher. The exhibit is on display through Saturday June 25 at the Erie Canal Discovery Center, 24 Church Street, Lockport. Come see a “Bird’s Eye View” of scenes from around Niagara County. Many of the photos on display were selected purposely to illustrate a different perspective of familiar locations, while all were chosen for their “artistic” value. These aerial views give an unimaginable panorama of shapes, textures, and perspective which we could never realize from the ground.
Recently retired from flying, Dick is a self taught aerial photographer with 25 plus years in the business and 64 years of flying in general. Over his lifetime, Dick acquired a wide assortment of experiences and has an array of stories to go along with them. Although the display is a mere sampling of the vast body of work he has produced, each photo has a story (or several stories once he gets going). His talent as a story teller and excitement about local history is evident after just a few minutes in his presence. For that reason, we have asked Dick to spend some time greeting visitors to the exhibit to discuss the photos, the methods he has used over the years, local history, and the changes to the landscape of our area. Dick will be on hand for two dates as follows: Saturday, May 21 & Saturday, June 18, 10:00 AM - Noon and 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM both days. The June date coincides with the "I Love New York, Path Through History Weekend". For more information on that event, please visit Admission to the exhibit is free during regular museum hours.
Over the past several years we have published five books of Dick's photos, all of which are available for purchase at the Discovery Center. Framed prints of the photos on display or in the books can be ordered as well. All proceeds from the sale of the books and prints benefit the Niagara County History Center and the Niagara Art Trail. Dick will be happy to flip through the books and discuss any of the nearly 300 photos as well. From Niagara Falls, to Olcott, to Pendleton, to Somerset, and of course, Lockport, we are confident there is something to interest everyone.

Niagara Art Trail

Niagara Art Trail

It hasn't been the worst Winter this year and the groundhog didn't see his shadow, but it still seems many of us are suffering from a touch of Spring Fever. The good news is, we have the perfect cure. The Niagara Art Trail is pleased to present the fourth annual “Spring Fever” Antique Fair. So shake off those winter blues and come on out to the Kenan Center Arena in Lockport to browse & shop a vast selection of antiques and collectibles on display by dealers and collectors from all around Western New York.

The show takes place on Saturday, March 12, 2016. General admission is just $3 per person from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, however early birds will be admitted at 9:00 AM for a fee of $6 per person. Children 12 and under are admitted to this family friendly event at no charge when accompanied by an adult. Discount admission coupons are available on our website at Food & beverages offered by Reid's II will be available for purchase.

The Kenan Center Arena is located at 195 Beattie Avenue in Lockport or use the west entrance at 433 Locust Street. There is plenty of free parking.

We have over eighty vendor booths available and it looks like another packed show so far. However, there may still be vendor space available. To rent a booth please contact the Niagara Art Trail at 716.609.0433 or download the application at Sign up early to ensure that you are listed in the program.

More than a ‘Penney’s worth’ of open space in Bewley Building - The Buffalo News
More than a ‘Penney’s worth’ of open space in Bewley Building - The Buffalo News

More than a ‘Penney’s worth’ of open space in Bewley Building - The Buffalo News

LOCKPORT – When Lockport’s legendary collector Charles Rand Penney died, the loss was notable in the art world and made a difference to the hundreds of buyers who descended on his estate sale, which was so large it had to be held in a former hockey rink.But one little-noticed... - The Buffalo News

Niagara Art Trail

Niagara Art Trail

It’s that time of year again. The Niagara Art Trail’s Holiday Open House Weekend is coming Friday November 20 through Sunday November 22. Stop in to open houses at nine area galleries and studios. Come meet artists, browse artwork, and maybe find that perfect gift for the art lover on your list. Each year we arrange temporary exhibits at area locations for artists who do not have their own galleries to display their work. Ticklebridge located at 14 Market Street in the Bewley Building will one again act as the main hub of the trail. Works and items featuring the art of several artists and photographers will be featured with a special display highlighting local painter Joe Whalen. Once again the Erie Canal Discovery Center/Penney Gallery will be a stop, featuring works by Manning McCandlish. Enjoy a tasting while you browse at the Flight of Five Winery which will offer work by co-owner & artist Michael Connelly. Other stops include the in-home galleries of Gallery DiMaggio and Don Little Studio. Lockside Art Center and the Market Street Art Studios each featuring the work of multiple artists are also on the trail. The Kenan Art Council's 35th Annual Holiday Gift show at the Kenan Center is also a stop on the Holiday weekend. The Mental Health Association in Niagara County is hosting an exhibit as well. Admission is free to all stops with the exception of the Kenan Center which has a $4 admission fee. Proceeds support the Kenan Center programs.

Not all stops are open all three days. Daily hours of each stop varies, so pick up your FREE Niagara Art Trail guide for all the details. The guide also contains information on many other events happening throughout the Holiday Season. The guides will be available by Saturday, November 14th at our hub stop, Ticklebridge, as well as The Flight of Five Winery, Niagara History Center, Market Street Art Studios, Erie Canal Discovery Center, all of which are located in Lockport and The Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo. Or if you prefer, you can download your copy from our website. For more information and a list of many of the locations distributing the guide book visit

Erie Canal Discovery Center

Erie Canal Discovery Center

A super Discovery Show & Tell program this afternoon by Amy Johnson, History Center collections manager - "The Penney Collection Unhinged." Amy shared the odd & the awesome from Lockport's business history now in the vast Charles Rand Penney Gallery at the Discovery Center.

Spotlight on the Penney Gallery 10Daredevil Scales F&M BuildingNiagara’s amazing cataract has always been associated w...

Spotlight on the Penney Gallery 10
Daredevil Scales F&M Building

Niagara’s amazing cataract has always been associated with a collection of daredevils and stuntmen, like Nick Wallenda, who have sought to make a name for themselves by taming some of the fury of the Falls. But, it is a little unusual to come across an interesting stunt that actually took place in Lockport. Williams was dubbed the “Human Fly,” and had electrified great crowds in various cities by scaling the outside walls of the cities’ tallest buildings. In Lockport, the Fly had his eye set on scaling the exterior of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, a imposing local landmark since 1870. An article in the Union Sun & Journal details the 1917 scene of the stunt.

“Nothing had aroused the interest of thousands of people in Lockport as the announcement of the scheduled stunt of the Human Fly. Overhead the heavens seemed alive with electric flashes. Some rain fell but the elements do not terrorize the strip of a youth who says he will not stop his profession until fate plays a card against him. The Fly took a look up the side of the building and began a series of mental calculations on how he would go about it. The crowd swelled by thousands. Autos packed the streets for blocks around. It was the greatest gathering of people in one spot in the history of the city. A cloudy evening brought early darkness. A spotlight was thrown on the bank building from the Lockport Light and Power Company, also on Main Street It illuminated the way for the Fly and gave the multitude a clear view of every move.”

“Williams gave the signal for the start a few minutes before 8 o'clock. He tried to climb on a corner and then dropped back. Then he went up the columns at the entrance like a monkey. At the top of the fourth floor he struck a wide smooth brick surface. For ten minutes he tried to master it. Literally sticking himself against the wall in some almost super-human manner he would try to reach the ledge above. His hand fell short, time and time again. Beads of perspiration began to drop from his brow. He finally crawled up the column between the windows, succeeded in bracing one hand on a one inch window ledge and with that as his only support he drew himself up with his finger tips. The crowd gave another cheer. The climb from the fifth floor to the sixth floor cornice was one of apparent danger. Williams got to the window and reached out and grasped the projecting stone with his hands. He released his feet and swung free above the street. He kicked his heels together and then began to swing like a pendulum. He threw his whole body from side to side until he was able to move one foot over the coping and in a second he was on the roof like a cat. Williams took to the giant flag pole on the roof and went up it in monkey fashion. A mighty roar of applause supplemented by the honking of a half a thousand auto horns attested to the appreciation of the people.”

Charles Penney enjoyed collecting advertising and souvenirs from area businesses. The Penney Gallery currently displays a purse make-up mirror from Lockport Light, Heat and Power and rouge compact from the F& M Building as well as an assortment of old photos and postcards.

Spotlight on Penney Gallery 7 Fraternal OrganizationsSocial life in Niagara County has long been punctuated with numerou...

Spotlight on Penney Gallery 7
Fraternal Organizations

Social life in Niagara County has long been punctuated with numerous fraternal organizations that have sprung up and either thrived and continued to grow, or flourished for a day and later disappeared without a trace. Some of the names of the groups are still part of our collective consciousness today, like the Masons and Eastern Star, or the Odd Fellows (IOOF) and Rebekah Lodge, or the Eagles, Elks and Moose. Others, if mentioned, can rarely be remembered. Fraternal organizations were so numerous and all pervasive that by the end of the 19th century, hardly a family existed that was not impacted by one or more of these “brotherhoods.”

From 1850 to 1875, numerous temperance lodges and societies were established in Niagara County to challenge the accepted standards concerning alcohol. Some of these groups included The Independent Order of Good Templars, the Royal Templars of Temperance, the Sons of Temperance and their sister organization, the Daughters of Temperance. Most of these groups disappeared into history even before the Prohibition Act of 1920 made the sale and consumption of intoxicating beverage illegal.

Another organization that was formed for a specific purpose was the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Most would recognize this group by their shorter name of Grange. Grange Halls were common in many Niagara County towns. Organized to yield influence on farm related matters, these groups also served as the social headquarters for vast segments of the agricultural communities that they represented.

Another fraternal order, laid the framework for the advent of labor unions in our county, the Ancient Order of United Workmen. A similar group, the American Fraternal Insurance Union set the stage for a burgeoning insurance industry in the county.

Other groups, in no particular order, include the Independent Order of Foresters, Loyal Order of Moose, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Knights of Pythias, Champions of the Forest, Royal Neighbors of America, Improved Order of Red Men, Modern Woodmen, The Woodmen of the World, Woodmen Circle, Order of Scottish Clans, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief and Beneficiary Association, Armenian Society, Knights of Maccabees, Knights of the Ladies of Honor and the Scandinavian Brotherhood of America.

As a collector of local memorabilia, Charles Penney acquired an immense assortment of badges and pins from area fraternal organizations. Many of these items are currently on display in the new Penney Gallery located at the Erie Canal Discovery Center at 24 Church Street in Lockport.

Spotlight on the Penney Gallery # 6Lillian BronsonMany from Niagara County still remember Clark Gable, the swashbuckling...

Spotlight on the Penney Gallery # 6
Lillian Bronson

Many from Niagara County still remember Clark Gable, the swashbuckling leading man of stage and screen but fewer probably remember his diminutive co-star, Lillian Bronson. She was a member of the Bronson family of Lockport, once a prosperous and prominent family that traced their roots back several generations to a “horse and buggy” works, the Bronson Carriage Company.

Ira Bronson founded the carriage company in 1851 from his home on West Avenue and later moved to the corner of Transit and New Main streets, a building that would later become the Park Hotel. The company grew in prominence and by the 1890s had gained the reputation as one of the best carriage and sleigh makers in the country and some of their handiworks were displayed in the Paris World Exposition. Examples of Bronson’s carriages are displayed at Niagara County History Center, 215 Niagara Street.

Fast forward two generations and the Bronson name found fame once again, but this time through the fortune of a leading character actress, Lillian Bronson, who left her home on West Avenue next to DeFlippo’s, to stand in the bright lights of Broadway and Hollywood. While in Lockport, she graduated from the Lockport Union School Class of 1921. Encouraged to attend acting school by her teacher, Lillian’s acting career included over 80 feature films and even more television shows. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College and the University of Michigan, she got her first big break in “Camille” with Lillian Gish. She played women of society and family characters-the mother, the grandmother, the aunt, and the teacher. She hit the silver screen for the first time in Lockport, at the Palace Schine Theater in “Happy Land,” starring Don Ameche in January 1944. She played Clark Gable’s secretary in “The Huckster,” Henry Fonda’s mother in “Spencer’s Mountain,” James Whitmore’s aunt in “The Next Voice You Hear,” and Claudette Colbert’ sister in “Family Honeymoon.” Not so many years ago, Lillian Bronson played the role of the Bird Lady in “Dragnet,” and Fonzie’s grandmother on the hit series, “Happy Days.”

For over 20 years, Lillian Bronson’s received additional visibility and notoriety as the subject of “The Old Lady of the Freeway,” a three-story-tall mural visible to motorists on the northbound Hollywood Freeway. Lillian was honored once again in her own hometown in 1977, when the City of Lockport proclaimed “Lillian Bronson Day,” to recognize the achievement of their favorite “grandmother.” After a life and career of truly happy days, spanning over 50 years, Miss Bronson took her final “curtain call” on August 3, 1995 and died in Laguna Beach, California at the age of 92.

The Penney Gallery at the Erie Canal Discovery Center, 24 Church Street, is pleased to remember Lillian Bronson. Among its exhibits the Gallery displays some of Lillian Bronson memorabilia including a pair of high-top shoes she used in one of her Hollywood production.


24 Church St
Lockport, NY

Opening Hours

Friday 10:00 - 15:00
Saturday 10:00 - 15:00


(716) 434-7433


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