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Oneonta grew from first settlers to a city Mark SiMonSon Contributing Writer

The condition in which the glaciers left this area thousands of years ago might explain how Oneonta became a regional hub of activity and commerce. From the time the first European settlers arrived in the 1770s — and American Indians before them — five valleys brought them to Oneonta, on the northern bank of the Susquehanna River. Only five miles east of Oneonta, the Susquehanna River Valley from the north converges with the Charlotte River Valley from the east and Schenevus Creek Valley from the northeast, forming a westbound valley of the Susquehanna. Then, at a point just west of Oneonta, the Otego Creek Valley comes from the north. Except from the south, where the mountains were steep, Oneonta was easy to reach from all directions. Oneonta’s name, from information provided by William A. Starna, professor emeritus of anthropology at SUNY Oneonta, has long been known as the “City of the Hills.” The name, derived from a Mohawk Indian word, does not have a similar meaning. Pronounced o-neny-onda, Oneonta can literally be translated as “rocks sticking out,” a reference to the exposed bedrock cliff faces found on the east end and north side of the city. The Revolutionary War drove many of the early settlers out of the area, but they returned as the frontier expanded. The hills and valleys were fertile, and with an early western movement, Oneonta grew with the farm community. In addition, farmers became parttime lumbermen. With plenty of trees and water power from the Susquehanna, logs were sawed and rafted to markets in larger cities. What began as nearly unsettled in 1780, Oneonta had about 200 people by 1825. The valleys leading to Oneonta saw trails, turnpikes, and then roads built. Stagecoaches brought more people, providing a boost to new businesses. However, Oneonta was anything but a boomtown at first, despite its easy accessibility. Along came the Erie Canal, finished in 1825. For the local economy, this was a tragic turn of events. Suddenly it was less expensive to transport farm goods and other materials to places like Albany or New York from the Midwest, than it was from Oneonta. The farm community remained flat or depressed for years to come. There were ideas of building a Susquehanna Canal, but they passed quickly. In 1826, however, Oneonta businessmen began talking publicly about a railroad along the Susquehanna. It took a few more decades to raise enough capital for such a huge project. See ONEONTA, Page 2

The McDonald Tavern, built by James McDonald, once stood at the corner of River and Main streets, where today’s Stewart’s Shop is located.

The former village hall and fire station, where today’s 242 Main St. is found.



Two sports have stood out through Oneonta’s history Mark SiMonSon Contributing Writer

If Oneonta was to be defined by popular sports throughout its history, most would easily think of baseball and soccer.


Locals played the game with rules very different from today on the Central New York Fairgrounds, where the Hudson Street and Belmont Circle neighborhood is today. The game moved to the area of today’s Neahwa Park after the turn of the 20th century. It wasn’t until around 1890 that professional baseball was played here, initially with the New York State League. There were periods Oneonta didn’t have a professional team, so semi-professional ball was a substitute for the favorite American pastime.

Our region had town teams, and college men would be hired to play. For example, Stamford’s town team were mostly men from Princeton University. Oneonta had ties to Colgate University. For the players’ “real jobs,” they’d work in the D&H Railroad shops in the early years, or later at Scintilla Magneto in Sidney, today’s Amphenol, until it was time to play ball. During those semi-pro years, Major League teams would “barnstorm” town teams. Oneonta played the likes of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, or traveling all-star teams. Now and then, Oneonta’s nine would send the big teams packing with a loss. That remote site to play in the East End got old. Frank H. Monroe, a co-manager of the first team to play at the new baseball field in See SPORTS, Page 2


The second site of Oneonta’s National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum on Ford Avenue, serving from 1987 to 1999.


MONDAY, OCT. 31, 2016


„ Continued from Page 1 1905 once told The Oneonta Herald what an inconvenience it was to get to the fairgrounds. “If we wanted to play a game of scrub after supper,” he said, “we would just about get going when it would be time to quit on account of darkness.” Monroe took it upon himself to start looking for a more central location for a playing field. One day after the turn of the 20th century, as Monroe was going toward one of the many popular swimming holes along the Susquehanna River, he noticed a level stretch of land across from what were the D&H Railroad tracks, near today’s Stella Luna Ristorante, on Market Street. Monroe told William Abbott about the spot, and the two looked over the land, which at the time was a pasture. They found out that the property was owned by Dr. Lewis R. Morris, a resident of the village of Morris. Monroe and Abbott traveled to Morris one day to interview the doctor. Mr. Morris gave his consent for the use of the land, and said the boys could lay out the baseball diamond at no cost. Thrilled, the boys returned to Oneonta and got a group together. Plans got underway for the new baseball diamond. Once the playing field was laid out, the question of a fence was brought up. Back then, grain was shipped to dealers in bulk, by rail cars. The insides of the car doors were boarded up to keep the grain from sifting out. After a car was emptied, the boards were tossed aside. The grain dealers gave their consent to have the boards taken away to the ballpark. Players and fans then built a fence. The entrance to the new field is near the same entrance we know today, at Damaschke Field. Fans who paid entered there and sat in the grandstand. Those patrons who wanted to see the games for free entered the park from the south and west sides, which weren’t fenced in. It was also common for many D&H railroad freight cars to be parked near this new field. At any game, people climbed to the top of the cars to get a good view of the game. The very first game was played on May 31, 1905, which was Memorial Day. The Oneonta Red Lions took on the Norwich Crescents. Norwich beat Oneonta that day, 11-5, but The Oneonta Herald called the game a success. “The grandstand was filled and along both the first and third base lines there were standing hundreds of men while there were not a few automobiles and carriages on the grounds. Frank Monroe was all smiles when he came out of the ticket office and he expressed his appreciation of the splendid support.” Ballpark improvements were gradually made in

ONEONTA „ Continued from Page 1 Meanwhile, larger cities like Utica and Albany had more political clout with the New York State Legislature in placing their transportation projects ahead of rural ideas. Still, efforts to get inexpensive transportation to Oneonta continued, peaking in 1851 when a committee of 10 men from the region called for a convention to charter the Albany and Susquehanna (A&S) Railroad. All were very motivated to make the railroad a reality. Oneontans such as Harvey Baker and Colonel W.W. Snow went from house to house, seeking stock subscriptions, but people were slow to buy. They wanted the railroad to come, but wanted someone else to pay for it. A&S President Joseph Ramsey also worked tirelessly to seek aid. He endured four annual gubernatorial vetoes of aid, but in 1863, Gov. Horatio Seymour signed a state aid bill calling for $500,000. As the railroad line was under construction, subscriptions to stock and


Francisco Marcos encouraged younger kids to start playing the game in the late 1960s, which eventually led to the formation of the Oneonta Youth Soccer Association. The college programs also led to the formation of the annual Mayor’s Cup Soccer Tournament, which began in 1975. Not only did it attract top-notch college soccer programs to the city, it spurred a few ideas for Oneonta to become the aforementioned “Soccertown, U.S.A.” Albert Colone and Joseph Bernier were both employed by the city of Oneonta in 1975 and were at a soccer tournament at Damaschke Field. Bernier recalled it being a foggy, drizzly night with very low attendance. The two got talking, and figured that with some better promotion, a new tournament could be something big for the community. A year later after much planning, the Mayor’s Cup Tournament was born. Colone and others had ideas following the 1977 Hartwick College NCAA championship about a National Soccer Hall of COURTESY OF HUNTINGTON MEMORIAL LIBRARY Fame. There was nothing formal, so Colone and area An aerial view of Neahwa Park Field in the 1950s, known today as Damaschke Field. leaders decided to seize the successful, as the team’s c o n s i d e r ab l e s n ow f a l l moment and make Oneonta years following. The present SOCCER WAS THE grandstand was built during record was 9-1 at the time. across the region. Mayor a soccer destination. A comNEWCOMER SPORT the Great Depression as a On Thursday, Nov. 7, an James Lettis had offered mittee appointed by Lettis FOR ONEONTA Works Progress Administraevening pep rally at the ath- the use of Damaschke Field simply declared in 1980 tion project of the Franklin The Oct. 14, 1955 edition letic field house got the play- for the game on the 27th, that Oneonta was the home D. Roosevelt administration. of the State Times told stu- ers ready for their trip to as crowds were expected of the National Soccer Hall While it began as Elm Park, dents at the State University Notre Dame. For Hartwick, to reach 10,000 or more. To of Fame. the name of the ballpark College at Oneonta that a this was one of the biggest get the field in shape for the The shrine began with was eventually changed new team sport had arrived moments to date in the his- game, a call for volunteers a display at the George I. to Neahwa Park Field. The on campus. It said, “Soccer tory of the College’s athletic with snow shovels was put Wilber mansion on Ford name Damaschke Field is a very good spectator program. out. Avenue, followed by larger came about in the late 1960s. sport and it is anticipated The “Irish” had also Lettis officially declared quarters just a few buildErnest C. “Dutch” Dam- that a large turnout will be dropped one game all sea- Nov. 27 as “Soccer Day in ings closer to Main Street aschke was a team member on hand when the Dragons son. Hartwick came in with the City of the Hills.” More on Ford Avenue. Momenof a ballclub in 1916 and had meet Albany State JV, Sat- one of the best defensive than 6,000 turned out for tum built in the 1980s and a strong influence on base- urday, October 22, at Webb teams in the nation that the matchup, which SUNY ’90s, and in 1999 a complex year, allowing only nine Oneonta won 3-0, defeating in Oneonta’s West End ball in Oneonta in latter Island.” years. Oneonta had been look- goals in 10 games. the defending state NCAA opened, including several As Oneonta mayor dur- ing for a competitive fall In four periods, Hartwick division champs. In the playing fields and a much ing the 1960s, Albert “Sam” sport for the college, as the scored in each, defeating stands and on the fields, larger Hall of Fame and Nader worked to bring pro- campus was expanding, and Notre Dame, 4-2, before everyone kept their cool Museum. fessional baseball back to other SUNY colleges had 2,000 spectators — then the and sportsmanship. SUNY Leadership changes in the Oneonta. The last profes- started playing soccer. In largest crowd ever to see a Oneonta fans wildly cel- Hall’s Board of Trustees and sional team played here the early 1950s, enrollment home soccer game. Three ebrated after the game. management of the Hall of from 1940-1951 as The at the college had been a of the Hartwick goals came Both teams had excellent Fame were made, and after Oneonta Red Sox, as part ratio of eight-to-one, female from “The Glorious Greek,” Division I programs through several years of moderate of the Canadian-American students. Oneonta wanted a Nick Papadakis. Hartwick the 1970s. Hartwick Col- success, the Hall closed to League. That league folded sport that would appeal to bumped Notre Dame out lege had a history-making the public after Labor Day before the 1952 season. men. of NCAA tourney competi- season in 1977. The team 2009 because of financial difNader was successful in 1966 Former Oneonta Mayor tion with the win to end the went to the NCAA National ficulties. Scheduled tournain resuming the Red Sox David Brenner was on that regular season. Hartwick Championship finals and ments continued in the fall, affiliation in the current New initial soccer squad. He was eventually eliminated, defeated the University of but no decisions had been York-Penn League. Unfortu- had played at Washington- as well. San Francisco, 2-1 on Dec. 4. made about the future of nately that only lasted one ville High School, coming From that point, Hartwick Once the game was over, the hall. year, but Nader had options to Oneonta after serving never had a losing season windows on the Oyaron Th e Nat i o n a l S o c c e r Hill campus popped open, Hall of Fame and Museum for other affiliate teams to in the military a few years until 1991. SUNY Oneonta and Hart- and shouts of “we’re num- announced on Feb. 10, 2010 come to Oneonta. The Cin- after high school. cinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers “There were about three wick had never played each ber one” filled the air. Oth- that it would cease operand New York Yankees were of us who had any expe- other in the sport, as there ers students got in their ations in Oneonta. The Socthe choices. Nader was a life- rience playing soccer,” had been predictions of cars and went buzzing the cer Hall transferred the title long Yankees fan, and made Brenner said. “We had a trouble if the two ever met. Oneonta streets, honking of its 62-acre campus to the the local fan favorite choice, core of people that were just They finally did, not by reg- their horns wildly on an Otsego County Developan affiliation that lasted 31 good athletes, who learned ular scheduling of games, otherwise quiet Sunday ment Corp. The electronics years. soccer secondarily.” Some but through two good teams evening. The downtown firm Ioxus moved into the A f t e r t h e Ya n k e e s of the players had earned advancing in New York state “watering holes” no doubt vacated building in 2011. departed for a new home letters in other sports as college playoffs. had a busy night. The soccer artifacts were in Staten Island in 1998, they began playing soccer. Reminiscing in a 1972 Lettis declared Monday removed and placed in storand a new affiliation with Brenner said coach Hurley Oneonta Star column before “We’re Number One Day.” age. A new National Socthe Detroit Tigers began. McLean molded the team the two teams met, sports Lettis said, “We’ve been cer Hall of Fame opened at That lasted until the end well, and they learned writer Bob Whittemore said called Soccertown U.S.A., Toyota Stadium in Frisco, of the 2009 season, after quickly. the responses from all sides and we’ve certainly lived Texas. new owners of the Oneonta In the fall of 1956, Hart- were along the lines of, “Do up to that name.” More than Despite this setback, socclub moved the team to wick College formed its first you wanna get Oneonta 2,000 people jammed Binder cer in Oneonta continues to Connecticut. soccer team. It wasn’t until wiped off the map? Those Gymnasium to give a spir- prosper, with the Oneonta Oneonta continued and 1963 when Hartwick had a kids will raise all kinds of ited welcome to their heroes Soccer Club for youth, remains a strong semi-pro- “watershed” event when cain and there’ll be fights of the soccer field. always competitive boys and fessional baseball town with the team played the Univer- and there’ll be…” Nothing The two college soccer girls teams at Oneonta High the advent of the Oneonta sity of Notre Dame in South of the sort ever happened. programs spurred interest School, and strong NCAA Outlaws, a member of the Bend, Indiana. The only fights that in the youth soccer move- Division I and III men’s and New York Collegiate BaseUnder Hartwick coach took place that week were ment in the area in the women’s teams at Hartwick ball League. The club is David Haase, the 1963 against the elements. On 1970s and beyond. Hart- College and SUNY Oneonta, locally owned and operated. season had been very Nov. 24, there had been wick College standout respectively. other contributions grew, compiling the nearly $7 million required. The first train arrived in Oneonta with great fanfare in August 1865. The rails were completed to Binghamton by 1869. With the rising importance of coal as a product being shipped from northeast Pennsylvania to the New England states, the A&S became a very busy railroad. It would require building and repairing freight cars. Repair shops were needed somewhere, so communities along the line began their efforts to attract the shops. Likely because Oneonta was in the center of the railroad path between Albany and Binghamton, it was chosen for the shops in April 1872. The shops became an economic boon for the village of Oneonta. By 1875, the population more than doubled from what it had been in 1870, mainly to fill the growing number of jobs. The railroad became the Delaware and Hudson, named after the Pennsylvania canal company that transported the coal to the northeast. As the population grew, so did other businesses. With growing wealth came

an improved quality of life and appearance. Elegant hotels were constructed, nicer houses and schools appeared, Main Street was paved, a horse-drawn trolley started service, and water and sewer services were established. Not satisfied with the railroad and growing businesses, Oneonta’s leaders were successful in establishing another sector to the economy — higher education. The Oneonta Normal School, today’s State University College at Oneonta, arrived in 1889. A second, Hartwick College, arrived in 1928. Oneonta became a city in 1909. The rail yards reached peak employment numbers just before World War I, and was the No. 1 workforce (usually in the 30 to 40 percent range) in the city a few more decades. But with the advent of the diesel engine and subsequent owners of the D&H, the numbers employed would start to decline in the 1950s. After World War II, many Americans used the G.I. Bill to go to college, buy a home, or start a business. In coming decades, both Oneonta colleges would see unprecedented growth in enrollment and buildings.

New homes were built and several businesses started. Urban planning — common after WWII — would change the face of Oneonta’s central

business district. The D&H rail yard ended operations in early 1996. While that workforce departed, other major employers had been taking

up some of the slack, including health care, the two colleges, and seeing more growth today — regional tourism.

We focus on Oneonta History. Oneonta History Center 183 Main Street


MONDAY, OCT. 31, 2016


Businesses thrived after railroad came to Oneonta Mark SiMonSon

I n d u st r i a l Pa r k wa s designed for 11 light to medium industries. The first company to move into the new park was Seeley’s Ceramic Service, in October 1984. On Feb. 16, 1996, the remaining D&H Railroad car shop closed for the final time, eliminating the last railroad jobs in Oneonta. During the late 20th and early 21st century, it has been difficult to locate manufacturing businesses in Oneonta or upstate New York, mostly because of high utility costs, high taxes and stringent regulations. Those businesses that have stayed have done so because of the dedicated workforce and the pleasant quality of life in and around our city.

Contributing Writer

Oneonta probably wouldn’t have become a city if it hadn’t been for the location of the D&H Railroad shops here. From that point, it was stand back and watch the village grow. Since becoming a city, there have been many changes in local businesses. W h e n t h e A l b a ny & Susquehanna Railroad was built through Oneonta in 1865, the village population was 744. Villagers were already happy to have the railroad and depot, which had added a surge of new trade and travelers to their business center. Attracting the necessary roundhouse and machine shops for the entire railroad had always been on the minds of local business leaders. Oneonta looked like a sure thing until early 1870. The A&S leased the railroad line in perpetuity to the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal Company in northeastern Pennsylvania. Suddenly the D&H would determine where the shops would be established. Initially, this meant an estimated 1,000 jobs in the rail yards. In September 1870, R.C. Blackball sent a letter to Harvey Baker, instructing him to meet with D&H officials on the 14th, to look over sites in Oneonta. The letter read, “You had better be alone as I am not authorized to have mentioned this subject to any person.” The content of this letter had been very secret, even years after it was sent to Baker. Baker complied with Blackball’s request. He showed the D&H a few sites. A wide level stretch about a quarter mile from the Main Street business district, which Baker owned, pleased the D&H contingent. Ground was broken on Oct. 4 and eight days later the foundation was nearly completed for the first of two roundhouses in the rail yard. The structure was finished by January 1871. Incidentally, the major decision of where the D&H would establish its shops wasn’t going to be made until April 1872. It took until March 21, 1872 for the Oneonta Herald headline to read “Machine Shops to be Built Here!” Blackball predicted that this was only the beginning of what the future held for Oneonta as a regional railroad center. How correct he was. In 1906, a larger roundhouse was constructed, said to be the largest in the world for a few years. By 1912, the D&H employed 39 percent of the city’s population. The 1910 Oneonta census was 9,491. That amounted to roughly 3,700 employed by the railroad, substantially more than the original prediction of 1,000. Just about the same time as Oneonta got the railroad shops, cigar manufacturing began a long period of employment for village and city residents. Charles Smith came to Oneonta in 1874, opened a retail cigar store, and began a very small manufacturing line

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An aerial view looking westbound of the D&H Railroad yards in Oneonta, around 1950. The Main Street viaduct and the armory are visible near the bottom of the picture. in the back of the store. The popularity of Smith’s cigars won more business. Thomas Doyle eventually became a business partner and, not much later, a four-story building was constructed on Broad Street. At peak, the facility employed around 130, pumping up to $1,500 in salaries per week into the local economy. Doyle and Smith sold more than 3.3 million cigars, and eventually produced nearly 10 million by the turn of the century. Other Broad Street cigar manufacturers were Hayes and Bowdish, and Glenn and Girsh. Cigar manufacturing was the second largest employer behind the D&H. Before about 1900, it was cheaper to ship tobacco north to the labor force than it was to move the skilled labor to the south. But once it was easier to have machines do the work, it was cheaper to do the whole manufacturing process in the south. The last known cigar manufacturing in Oneonta was in 1945. Garment manufacturing was strong through most of the 20th century in Oneonta. One very active location was where today’s Marketplace on Chestnut Street at Fonda Avenue is found. This facility opened around 1911 as an overall factory, and later for dresses under a few different owners until the 1970s. Other dress manufacturers had locations on Dietz Street in the Dibble building, and further west on Chestnut Street near West End Avenue. Milling had always been a mainstay business in Oneonta. Right around the time Oneonta became a city, the Elmore family became associated and soon owned the Oneonta Milling Company, greatly enlarging the mill in 1910, and changing the company name to Elmore Milling. The Elmores were well known by farmers in this region, as well as several New England states, for their grain. The business saw several expansions until it ceased operations in 1963, ending an era of

water-driven grain grinding. The buildings were razed a few years later, where today’s Carbon Street is found. West-Nesbitt, another milling company on Market Street, where Foothills Performing Arts Center and Civic Center is today, closed in 1996 after 72 years, and was the last mill in the city. In the early 1950s, things began to change in the D&H rail yards. Conversion to diesel locomotives on the D&H had been underway since the end of the World War II. The old steam locomotives were being put into storage for reserve power and emergencies only. This meant a reduction of the labor force in the roundhouse. The last steam locomotive was used in Oneonta in 1953. Demolition began on the large roundhouse in 1954, taking 36 stalls out of 52 that had been once used for maintenance and repair. The remnants were used temporarily for storage by local companies, but the structure remained largely unused and deteriorated until 1993. The Canadian Pacific Railroad ordered the final razing of the roundhouse in December of that year. Local leaders knew in the early 1950s that there would never be a return to the 39-percent employment level for city residents by the railroad, so they set their sights on other new businesses to take over the slowly declining workforce. In December 1951, for i n st a n c e , a n u n n a m e d industry was looking to locate in Oneonta, provided they received some financial incentives and other economic support, through a community effort. The promise of at least 400 to 600 jobs and an annual payroll of a million dollars was promised, if an initial investment of $50,000 could be raised by the people of the region. The $50,000 was raised quite easily, and in March 1952, the Enterprise Aluminum Company of Massilon, Ohio announced a new plant for Oneonta. The site was on 15 acres of the Bingham property, where the Corning

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facility is today. Enterprise stayed in Oneonta until 1963. Others companies came and left in subsequent decades. Many came to Oneonta in the 1950s and ‘60s and remain today. Astrocom, Corning Inc., Custom Electronics, Medical Coaches and MAMCO are only a few of the small but steady industries in early 21st century Oneonta. During the 1970s, Interstate 88 was under construction, and was built along the site of the old Pony Farm on lower Oneida Street. As early as August 1974, the area was eyed as an excellent location for industrial development. City and town officials, the Otsego County Planning Department, and the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Board met to begin resolving some of the problems of developing the initial 40-acre site. Getting a sponsor and applications out for available funds got

underway. Getting the funds to develop the area was the biggest hurdle. By September 1978, a proposal called for about $1.4 million for land improvements. These included a road from the I-88 interchange area, opposite the River Street service road, as well as water, sewer, and buried electric power loops to serve the possible plant sites. The size of the industrial park had been increased to more than 81 acres since 1974. By April 1980, the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency had received two major sources of funding, from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Farmers’ Home Administration. They were waiting on approval of funds from the federal Economic Development Agency. After a year of waiting, the IDA got the approval in August. The actual check arrived in November. Initially, the Pony Farm

Downtown Oneonta had always been a bustling retail area, especially on Thursday nights and stayed that way until well after World War II. That was because payday for the D&H Railroad was always on a Thursday. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 1880, about 28 percent of all Americans lived in urban communities. By 1960, that figure grew to nearly 70 percent. Waves of immigrants and people moving westward during those eight decades crowded the cities, and as a result caused a number of problems. Deteriorating housing, air and water pollution, urban sprawl and traffic jams made city living difficult for some. On came the suburbs. The housing problem alone caused concern and got action by the enactment by Congress in 1949 of The Federal Housing Act. Basically, it called for getting rid of the blighted areas and replacing them with better housing. It gradually became a way to replace all types of buildings some considered to be deteriorated or an eyesore. Plus, it would theoretically keep people in the cities to live, work See RAILROAD, Page 7

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MONDAY, OCT. 31, 2016


Civic leaders wanted more than the railroad, turned to education Mark SiMonSon Contributing Writer

While Oneonta had become a “railroad town” after the 1870s, leaders of the village sought more diverse aspects of life for Oneonta. They got it—in the form of higher education, first with a Normal School in 1889 and then attracting a struggling nearby seminary to the city in 1928. Between 1880 and 1890, Oneonta’s population doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 and the area was enjoying great prosperity. Business leaders wanted more for the village and petitioned for a higher public school. These were known as normal schools. Most observers of the time credit George I. Wilber as being “the father of the Oneonta Normal School.” In 1889, James Milne was appointed principal, as the school opened. Five men and six women became the first graduating class. Teaching has always been the college’s best strength, and led to a name change to Oneonta State Teacher’s College in 1938. A property acquisition in 1935 of 25 acres near the former site of “Old Main” on upper Maple Street made expansion possible for the nearly 80 acres making up today’s SUNY Oneonta. Not too long after D-Day in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill that gave veterans some great benefits when they returned home — benefits that could help them buy a home or go to college. There were a lot of takers for going to college, so the college campuses of Oneonta State Teachers College and Hartwick College, among others, were about to experience huge growth, as more than 101,000 returning New York veterans expressed interest in the higher education promised to them. Enrollment increased rapidly after World War II, so housing became a big problem. Unlike other colleges in our region, President Charles Hunt opposed setting up temporary housing on the new campus, but approved the acquisition of available houses in the city. Residences at 59 and 62 Elm St. housed around 70 students. These and other buildings leased by fraternities and sororities couldn’t put off the need for larger dormitories. Although cornerstones on the first buildings of the new campus read 1949 and 1950, several strikes delayed construction. A new threepart dormitory scheduled


The groundbreaking ceremony at Hartwick College on June 26, 1928. From left: Robert J. Van Deusen, Dwight J. Baum, Charles Leitzell, Charles Myers, Abraham L. Kellogg and Arthur Seybolt.


Post World War II growth around 1950 at Hartwick College shows wooden barracks nicknamed ‘Splinterville’ on the lower campus, and ‘Cardboard Alley’ and the former field house in the upper right. to open in September 1950 never became fully operational until September 1951. These are Bacon, Denison and Morris halls. The Oct. 20, 1962 edition of The Oneonta Star had a huge headline, “$25 Million Expansion Program at SUCO.” It was that year that the college had a name change, to the State University College at Oneonta. Dust and loud construction noise could sum up life on campus in the 1960s, as the

still fairly new upper campus was in the middle of the largest expansion in the history of the college. In 1966 alone, 10 new buildings were opened. The Oneonta college capacity was planned to double by 1970. The unprecedented growth took a turn toward a much slower pace in 1972. The slowdown in campus growth wasn’t a big surprise to many local college officials. Back in 1966, State

University of New York officials had predicted that the college expansion in Oneonta was set to end in 1974. The last building during the surge in growth opened in time for the fall 1972 semester, a new dormitory. This was Hulbert Hall, very visible today from Ravine Parkway. It was named after Burton J. Hulbert, a popular Oneonta banker and civic leader. At the time it was the largest dorm on campus,

ready to house 452 and had its own dining hall. Large-scale construction may have ended in the early 1970s, but it has returned slightly since the late 1990s. Two major projects have been the Alumni Field House in 1999, and Higgins Hall in 2004. The latter was a large dormitory named after Robin Ross Higgins, a 1972 graduate.


It was a momentous occasion in Oneonta on June 26, 1928, when hundreds gathered on Oyaron Hill for a special groundbreaking. It was the culmination of a determined effort by local leaders in persuading a new Hartwick College to locate in the city. Back in 1895, the Hartwick Seminary Board of Trustees had aspirations of advancing their institution, just south of Cooperstown, to a full collegiate level. When the seminary celebrated its centennial in 1897, it was hoped their efforts to establish the college would be well underway. The expansion never took off, and nothing more of the effort came about until April 1926. That year, the board authorized the promotion of a $500,000 “Greater Hartwick” campaign, which began in the fall. The funds would go for buildings and endowment in the development of present departments and courses of study. But just as in 1895-97, the board would not commit itself to establishing a full four-year college. In the meantime, the fund raising campaign went very well, especially as campaign representatives visited Oneonta. With the board seemingly dragging its feet on expansion, it was Oneontan Herbert C. Getman who first suggested the college locate in the city. Attorney Arthur Seybolt asked the campaigners point-blank whether the seminary board would consider a proposal from Oneonta to locate here. That proposal, drawn up by the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce in early March 1927 called for the citizens of Oneonta to raise $200,000, and the trustees of the seminary to raise $400,000. The city also agreed to provide a suitable location with grounds ample for present and future needs. The Oneonta fundraising campaign, with the slogan “Everybody Give Something” continued, and within 16 days the $200,000 was raised. The Lutheran Synod had similar successes in raising its promised $400,000. Not all Oneontans donated money to the campaign. Some donated land, including 52 acres from the Baker family, 17 acres from D.F. Keyes, and 10 acres from the Millard family — all being land in the area near West and Clinton streets. This area became the site of the new campus. Oneonta’s new college started in the 1928-29 See EDUCATION, Page 6

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The original A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, left, opened in 1901. The addition, right, was added in 1918. Both were demolished in 1976 for a major building project on the Norton Avenue grounds.

Health care improvements grew along with Oneonta Mark SiMonSon Contributing Writer

As Oneonta’s population grew, due to the increasing D&H Railroad jobs; the number of injuries on those jobs and more babies being born, there grew a desire for improved health care. At times through the years, Oneonta had to cope with some serious health problems, and became a center for fighting disease.


Like in any community in the earliest years of health care, hospitals were started in private residences. Oneonta had several around the village in the late 19th century. Doctors also made house calls. Around 1895 there was a move to begin a better hospital in the village. It was June 26, 1901 when Aurelia Osborn Fox Memorial Hospital received its first six patients. Just a few weeks earlier, the Fox Nursing School had gotten started with five young women in the first class. This big step forward had been made possible in 1899, after Mrs. Fox passed away. Col. Reuben Fox offered $10,000 to the village to build a hospital if the village would provide the site. The Norton plot of land was purchased for $1,000, on the present site. At the death of Colonel Fox, he stipulated that $30,000 and one half of his residual estate should go to the hospital. In just a short time after

Oneonta became a city, construction and opening of a nurses’ residence took place in 1911 near the hospital. In 1918, an addition was made to the hospital, including an X-ray, a solarium and several patient rooms. The city continued to grow, and then the colleges expanded after World War II. From about 1955-62, there was a period of long-range building plans made, and the coming decades were times of great expansion at A.O. Fox Hospital. A notable expansion in recent years came in 1997 when the new Fox Care Center, formerly the Pyramid Mall, opened on Sept. 6. In 2013 a $10 million renovation project began, resulting in fewer licensed beds but more single-occupancy rooms, called the “Gold Standard of Patient Care” campaign. The project was completed in 2014. Now in the 21st century, A.O. Fox Hospital has seen enormous growth since 1901. Fox Hospital remains a full service community hospital with the FoxCare Center serving as an outpatient facility. A corporate affiliation with Bassett Healthcare began Jan. 1, 2010.


The former Homer Folks Tuberculosis Hospital, today’s Oneonta Job Corps Academy, caused some concern with area residents when it was first proposed in the early 1930s. A few thought it could be a health hazard to the community. Dr. Thomas Parran Jr., New York

An aerial view of Homer Folks Hospital, now the site of a Job Corps Academy.

State Commissioner of Health, was the guest speaker at the weekly luncheon of Oneonta’s Kiwanis Club, the last week in September 1932. The luncheon took place at the Elks Club, where 99 Main St. is found today. Members of the Kiwanis heard about the aims and purposes of the proposed hospital for the first time, and saw the initial plans. “The proposed hospital at Oneonta is to have 250 beds, of which 50 are to be for children, and it will cost one million dollars,” Parran said. “The tuberculosis sanatorium … is one step in the new state health program. This program was formulated by the state health commission appointed by Governor Roosevelt in 1930 and directed to make recommendations to bring the public health machinery of New York state abreast of modern needs.” In a question-and-answer period following the address, The Oneonta Herald reported that Dr. Parran “ridiculed the idea, which he said, still persisted in some quarters, that the location of a tuberculosis sanatorium would bring a health hazard to the city.” “On the contrary,” Parran asserted, “it will promote healthfulness by permitting the isolation of many contagious cases now walking the streets.” Bids for the Oneonta hospital were opened on Wednesday, Oct. 12, and The Herald reported the next day that Oneonta labor would be employed in the construction.

Little time was wasted on getting the construction underway on the upper West Street site, the George Ellis farm, and for Oneontans it became a bit of a spectator sport. Excavations began on Monday, Oct. 24. The official groundbreaking ceremony was held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26. Despite threatening weather and low-hanging clouds, between 400 and 500 people attended the ceremonies. By mid-March 1934, the end was in sight for the construction, despite long delays due to harsh winter conditions. The hospital finally opened on Dec. 18, 1935 and was dedicated on July 9, 1936. Dr. Ralph Horton was the first director, a post he held until 1959. Months before the dedication, it was decided that the Oneonta Tuberculosis Hospital would have a new name. It would be called the Homer Folks Tuberculosis Hospital. Mr. Folks was the secretary of the State Charities Aid Association, a social worker who had been the aggressive sponsor of many general health, tuberculosis and social welfare laws. Folks was at the July dedication, and Gov. Herbert Lehman noted how Folks had done more than any other to promote the control of tuberculosis in New York state. By the early 1970s, the need for a large in-patient tuberculosis hospital no longer existed. The hospital began scaling down its services in 1973 and finally closed in 1975.



MONDAY, OCT. 31, 2016



„ Continued from Page 4 academic year. The first classes were held in the former Walling mansion, the site of today’s First United Presbyterian Church (the Red Door Church). The brand new Science Hall on Oyaron Hill was ready for occupancy in December 1929. It would later be named Bresee Hall. Hartwick College faced some very difficult times in the 1930s and ‘40s. The Great Depression put a constrictive grip on the college. With all the bank failures and dwindling personal income, many citizens of Oneonta and others around the state had to default on their pledges to the college. In 1933 Hartwick was so short of funds that faculty salaries were slashed by up to $300. As the U.S. was gradually emerging from the Great Depression, Hartwick had survived and optimism returned to leadership. But World War II came home to Hartwick after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Scores of male students enlisted in the armed forces or were drafted. The drop in enrollment also created a deficit, and again the fight for survival was on. Hartwick College might have closed if it hadn’t been selected for a new government program to train members of the new Cadet Nurse Corps for duty in the armed services or public health. The war ended, and the G.I. Bill also made Hartwick College an option for a college education. As the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s came along, Hartwick saw an unprecedented spurt of growth, just like the college over on the other hillside. New building construction also slowed down in the 1970s, but now and then in coming decades new buildings were constructed, such as Clark Hall, which had a groundbreaking in June 1991. In May 2007, ground was broken for Golisano Hall, which opened a year later.

An aerial view of the State University College at Oneonta around 1960.

A 1904 view of the Oneonta Normal School from East Street.

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An aerial view of the former Elmore Milling Co., once found at the corner of Main Street and Neahwa Place.


„ Continued from Page 3 and shop. From day one, the process of urban renewal had the word controversial attached to it. On one hand, you’d have modern buildings. On the other, you could argue it displaced people from their homes, and businesses would cease to exist or move. Rents would be higher. Plus, the process was slow. A typical federal urban renewal project took 12 years to complete. Lots of land would lie vacant. Oneonta was not without its share of controversy.

August 1968 saw the first sign of change on the way, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a $4.1 million grant to the Oneonta Urban Renewal Agency. It was earmarked to help 34 families relocate from the project area. In all, 21.5 acres and 116 buildings were cited for new development. City leaders were pleased to take a step to rebound from “urban blight” in the city. The most visible signs of urban renewal can be seen now where Bassett Healthcare is lat the corner of Main and Chestnut streets, the

Clinton Plaza directly across the street, the city parking ramp, and several buildings on South Main Street. Then there’s the former Broad Street. The original plan in 1966 was to have a mid-town shopping center on the south side of Main Street, with a large grocery store, the parking garage and many more parking spaces. A 10-story apartment building would be close-by. Demolition of Broad Street began in 1974, lasting until 1976. That lot remained empty until the Clarion Hotel opened on Dec. 7, 2001. W h i l e a l l t h i s wa s

happening, shopping centers were being built in the town of Oneonta. If one grew up here in the 1960s and ‘70s, it was anyone’s guess which direction the commerce was shifting to next. First came the East End with Jamesway, Oneonta Plaza and the Pyramid Mall, and then came the West End Plaza. Until there was word of impending construction of Interstate 88 in the late 1960s, Southside was a quiet area of town, almost totally agricultural. The road through the present area was built in 1947 and prior to that, Southside

Drive was the main route from Oneonta to Stamford. There wasn’t much business on the state Route 23/28 area we know today until 1971. Bids were opened that year for construction of Interstate 88, including a Grand Street arterial, which is now known as the James F. Lettis and Leslie G. Foster Highway. With news that there would be an exit from the interstate in that area, interest in Southside grew. The March 15, 1971 edition of The Oneonta Star told that a 120-unit Holiday Inn would be built starting in May. That was only the beginning of the

shift of retailing to Southside. The downtown retail district attempted to battle back in keeping the area the hub of commerce, but the effort was unsuccessful. Ground was broken in December 1981 for the Southside Mall and new retail and service businesses mushroomed nearby in the 1990s. Whether it’s our attractive downtown, for the arts, an outstanding farmers’ market or unique retail offerings — or Southside — the tradition continues for Oneonta in welcoming our neighbors and visitors alike, as they do their “trading.”

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