Words and Pictures
The Swart-Wilcox House
by Helen K. B. Rees
Note: The Swart-Wilcox information is provided as a courtesy. The historical site is not affiliated with the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.
Built in 1807 by Lawrence Swart, a Revolutionary War soldier from Schoharry, this house was lived in by only two families in its 200-year history. Now owned by the City of Oneonta, it is operated as a community educational resource by the Friends of Swart-Wilcox. In 2004, New York State chartered it as a non-profit house museum.
The history of the house is a reflection of Oneonta's past. Lawrence Swart bought three sections of the Wallace Patent between 1795 and 1804. He cleared the land, built a log cabin and barn, then replaced the cabin with a German Palatine Vernacular house. He died in 1841, and the house and surrounding 108 acres of land (from Main Street to Scrambing Avenue and from the Susquehanna River to the hill behind the railroad tracks) were sold to Peter Collier and Jared Goodyear for $3,000. These entrepreneurs purchased the land with the hope of luring the railroad to Oneonta.
Having succeeded in this goal, Goodyear then sold the remaining land (from River Street to the Susquehanna River) to Henry Wilcox and his wife Phoebe Adelaide Smith in 1867 for $9,000. Henry was a farmer as well as active in the lumber business. They had three children: Myrtle, Fred, and Merton, the two sons remaining lifelongbachelors. . Phoebe had decorated the house in the Victorian style of the late 1800s. After her death in 1902, the house remained unchanged, with none of the 20th century modernizations such as indoor plumbing, electricity, or central heating. Members of the Wilcox family lived in this house continuously for over 103 years.
In 1963 ten acres were sold to the Oneonta City School District for Riverside Elementary School In 1972the City of Oneonta purchased the deteriorating house and the remaining 14.7 acres. In 1988 the Friends of Swart-Wilcox spearheaded the restoration of the house and had it placed on the National Historic Register. They continue the museum with its educational and community activities.
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