Bronze replica of Central Terminal buffalo will roam onto UB campus as mascot
By SUE WUETCHER
News Services Associate Director
July 18, 1996
PENN STATE has its famous Nittany Lion, a statue of a crouching mountain lion that graces its campus. The University of Maryland has its terrapin, Testudo. And UCLA has its formidable bruin, a 10-foot-high statue of a bear.
Come this fall, the University at Buffalo will join the group of American universities with large campus mascots when an imposing, life-sized bronze buffalo is installed on the circle in front of Alumni Arena and the Center for the Arts on the North Campus.
UB's sculpted buffalo won't be just any bronzed bison.
The university's new icon will revive a lost piece of the City of Buffalo's heritage and strengthen the link between the university and the community, especially for residents who have fond memories of Buffalo's old Central Terminal and the bronze buffalo that graced its concourse.
UB's bronze buffalo-measuring 8 feet long, 65 inches high and 33 inches at its widest part-will be a replica of that same definitive Buffalo buffalo.
In fact, through special arrangements with the son of the sculptor who created it for the New York Central Railroad in the 1930s, UB's bronze buffalo will be cast using a mold made from a fiberglass reproduction of the Central Terminal buffalo.
Its creation will be funded with $25,000 gifts from Gerald Goldhaber, UB associate professor of communication, and Burt P. Flickinger Jr., Western New York businessman and community leader. Ciminelli Construction will construct the base and install the bronze buffalo as an in-kind contribution.
"UB is restoring and bringing back to Buffalo a part of the original history of the city," says Ronald H. Stein, UB vice president for university advancement and development.
"I hope this will be more than a campus icon," he adds. "It should be a sense of pride for everybody in the City of Buffalo. It's part of the city's heritage."
Stein predicts that the bronze buffalo-just like the Nittany Lion, the Maryland terrapin and UCLA bruin-will become a sentimental symbol for the university.
He added, "It will be a place where students will pose for pictures with their parents on commencement weekend, or propose to each other, or just touch for luck."
The bronze buffalo is being produced by Messmore & Damon, Inc., a New York City company whose founder, G.H. Messmore, sculpted the original Central Terminal buffalo.
Fondly remembered by thousands of Western New Yorkers, the Central Terminal buffalo was actually a papier-mâché reproduction of Messmore's original clay sculpture. It was destroyed in recent years as the terminal fell into disrepair and plans for its renovation went unrealized.
Obtaining a bronze buffalo to grace the UB campus has been a pet project of Stein's for five years.
His plan to obtain the original Central Terminal buffalo was scrapped when it was discovered that the statue had been destroyed. When it was determined that it would cost more than $100,000 to commission a buffalo statue from scratch, not including the cost of installation and the base, Stein last summer launched a personal effort to raise the money.
Goldhaber, relaxing on a Cape Cod beach, happened to read an editorial in The Buffalo News applauding Stein's search for a bronze buffalo and decided to donate to the cause. Flickinger's gift followed.
But it was an article that had been published in 1992 in The New York Times about Buffalo's efforts to rehabilitate the Central Terminal that finally brought a bronze buffalo to UB. And at half the estimated cost.
Francis B. Messmore, president of Messmore & Damon and son of sculptor G.H. Messmore, read the story-which mentioned the destruction of the Central Terminal buffalo-and at that time sent a letter to David Franczyk, the Buffalo city councilman whose district includes the terminal. In the letter, Messmore told Franczyk that he had pieces of a fiberglass buffalo statue that had been made from the original mold of the Central Terminal buffalo. He wrote that he would be glad to make the pieces available to reproduce the buffalo statue if the terminal ever was restored.
Messmore's letter to Franczyk resurfaced about six months ago and somehow landed in the hands of Milt Carlin, a retired News Services editor, who sent a copy to UB President William R. Greiner. Greiner passed the letter on to Stein, who contacted Messmore and the two struck a deal to reproduce the statue in bronze.
"The whole thing unfolded by accident," Stein recalls. And, fortunately, the university had donations that were adequate to reproduce the buffalo in bronze.
Messmore, who is putting together a history of the Central Terminal buffalo, plans to attend the dedication ceremony with his wife. He is pleased that the UB statue will identify G.H. Messmore as the sculptor. "I'm very happy to see his name perpetuated ," Messmore says.
Goldhaber, a graduate of several universities that have mascot statues on campus, says it's important for a university to have such a symbol.
"A university is more than books, students, faculty and people. It's the symbols and memories that you carry with you through the years," he says.
"We don't have many traditions at UB," Goldhaber continues. "Geographically, the campuses are spread apart. This (the bronze buffalo) is one little thing that I felt would be helpful (in creating tradition).
"Unveiling it during the university's 150th birthday celebration makes it even more exciting."
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