Greater Oneonta
Historical Society

P.O. Box 814
Oneonta, NY 13820

Upcoming Events

All events are free and open to the public unless noted otherwise.

Tuesday May 15

GOHS is sponsoring a full-day trip to Hammondsport and Corning on Tuesday May 15 in a Hale Transportation bus. This trip will give participants the opportunity to tour the Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport and the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning.

The Curtiss Museum features displays of early aircraft, motorcycles, and engines, many of which were manufactured in the Hammondsport factory of aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss. Also on display are Curtiss family art and turn of the century furnishings and memorabilia.

The Corning Glass Museum, where participants will have a two-hour guided tour, is well-known for its comprehensive glass collection representing 35 centuries of glass from around the world. One of the special exhibitions in May will be “Curious & Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library”. Click here for a registration form, which is also available at the History Center. The cost of the trip is $90 and the registration deadline is April 24. Part of the registration will be a donation to GOHS. For more information, call Bill or Marge Pietraface at (607) 432-1385.

The bus trip to the Curtiss Aviation Museum in Hammondsport and the Museum of Glass in Corning leaves at 7 AM. Call Bill or Marge Pietraface at 432-1385 if you have questions.

Friday May 18

The History Center will be open from 12 noon to 8 PM for Destination Oneonta’s Art Walk. As part of Destination Oneonta's Creative Spaces, there will be activities for children from 5 to 8 PM. The History Center's Fabulous Friday schedule for the rest of the year will be announced in the next newsletter.

Friday May 25

"Oneonta's Own: The State Militia and the National Guard in Oneonta, 1846-2003" opens at the History Center with a reception at 2 PM. The exhibition will include items that were once displayed at the Oneonta Armory and are now in the collections of the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga. Thanks to Oneonta native Courtney Burns, director of military history there, for his integral role in this exhibition.

Mark your calendars:

  • Friday June 8: Fish Fry fund raiser at the Oneonta Vets Club
  • Tuesday July 31: Tour of Emmons Farms
  • Friday November 16: Benefit Auction at the Holiday Inn



GOHS News


Envisioning Downtown Oneonta Then & Now

With the state-funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) set to begin in earnest in 2018, downtown Oneonta is on the verge of the most extensive urban planning project since the 1960s and 1970s. The History Center’s current exhibition looks at that era of downtown redevelopment and the changes in Oneonta’s downtown that resulted from the national drive toward “modernization”. Included in the exhibition will be the city’s plans for “urban renewal” and more than 5o photos of downtown Oneonta in 1973. The urban renewal exhibition will run through May 5.

Oneonta South Main Street 1973
One of the 50 Costa Studio photos of downtown Oneonta
in 1973 included in the urban renewal exhibition.


Oneonta’s Own: The State Militia & National Guard in Oneonta, 1846 – 2003

The next exhibition at the History Center will feature the history of the Oneonta Armory and the military units associated with it. When the Oneonta Armory closed in 2003, the military artifacts stored and displayed there were removed to the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs. Courtney Burns, Oneonta native and director of military history at the museum, has arranged for GOHS to display some of these items at the History Center during the upcoming exhibition. The exhibition, which will open on Friday May 25, will also include artifacts from the GOHS collections as well as from the archives at Hartwick College and other sources.

Oneonta Theatre Update

Spring is in the air, and things are looking up! Monthly meetings at the History Center of the Oneonta Theatre working group give reason for optimism. GOHS and/or the Friends of the Oneonta Theatre (FOTOT) will apply for a grant for experts to explore how the Oneonta Theatre might be restored and operated as a viable non-profit venue.

FOTOT is in the process of refreshing its Board. Board members will help the planning consultants reach out and communicate with the local performing arts community and audiences as they conduct their study. After extensive input from the local and regional community, the consultants will prepare a detailed business plan and budget outlining an appropriate and sustainable approach to operating the historic theater. Along with the management planning study, a performing arts architectural firm will conduct a study of the building itself. They will report in detail on its present condition, and provide us with recommendations and an estimate of what it would take to repair and restore the 120-year-old theater. The final report will made available to the public, including at a public forum.

FOTOT is developing a new website and Facebook page to help our many supporters and interested members of the public stay informed about the progress of the study, and receive timely notice of the opportunities to participate in the process.

In the meantime, FOTOT is also working with the owner Tom Cormier to fix a minor leak in the roof over the stage, as soon as the weather permits the work to be done.

Oneonta Theatre Marquee 1967


Tour the History Center

Take a walk with GOHS executive director Bob Brzozowski through the three floors of the Oneonta History Center. (Video in mid-November 2017 by Nate Brzozowski; final editing by Dan Velle of Sweet Home Productions.)

Visit the History Center in 3D!

Thanks to Sweet Home Productions, a virtual tour of the first floor of the History Center and its urban renewal exhibition, is now accessible as part of the Main Street tour. It's the first stop on the Main Street tour above.


GOHS Highlights of 2016-2017

Click on the link to read the GOHS Highlights of 2016-2017.

Harvey Baker Book on Oneonta History

In 1892 and 1893 Harvey Baker, arguably the most important presence in the history of Oneonta, penned a series of sixty-three articles on the area's history for the Oneonta Herald. GOHS has compiled the articles into a new book, Oneonta in Olden Time & Bits of Oneonta History: An Interesting Series of Articles by Harvey Baker, Published in the Oneonta Herald During the Years 1892-1893.

Harvey Baker was a prolific writer who contributed to several Otsego County papers throughout his life. His articles for the Oneonta Herald are his account of how Oneonta evolved from aboriginal lands to frontier settlements, a bustling village, and eventually to a railroading powerhouse. Based on his research of the area's history dating back to colonial times and up to the current events of his lifetime, Baker covers topics as diverse as the American Revolution and Civil War, family histories, regional folklore, local newspapers, churches and schools, Native American legends, turnpikes and canals, and local geography and ecology. His description of the development of the railroad from Albany to Binghamton is of major interest; Baker is considered by many to have single-handedly built the Albany & Susquehanna railroad. This current publication of Baker's history, compiled by GOHS, makes it widely accessible for the first time since its initial publication more than one hundred years ago.

Born in Broome County, New York in 1818, Harvey Baker became a mechanic and millwright at an early age. He began rebuilding water wheels in saw, grist, and other mills and factories. He first visited Oneonta in February 1841, when he made his first contract to put his wheels into the local mills. In addition to his mechanical skills, Baker was a gifted public speaker and lobbyist who worked for decades to bring the railroad to Oneonta. An original stockholder of the Albany & Susquehanna railroad, he also contracted to build the rail beds, bridges, and trestles, personally supervising the work between Albany and Binghamton. He later purchased and developed land near Oneonta, selling it to the Delaware & Hudson railroad for their machine shops. In community life, Baker served as Oneonta village president and town supervisor, was a charter trustee of the Oneonta Savings Bank, and owned the Howe's Cave and Lime Company. He also owned two farms and wrote extensively on farming in the Otsego Farmer. Baker died at his home in Oneonta in 1904.

"GOHS is really thrilled about the publication of this book," said GOHS Director Bob Brzozowski. "It's been a project three years in the making, and through our collaboration with Square Circle Press, we are finally seeing it come to fruition." The book reproduces the articles exactly as they were published—typographical errors, spelling variations, and all. "We felt it was important to preserve the text as published, not only to create a primary source document for researchers and historians, but also to preserve the character of an older newspaper," Brzozowski stated.

The book is laid out chronologically according to the dates the articles were published, but the table of contents is arranged according to similar subject matters, such as railroads, family histories, schools, churches, and more. "Along with the index and illustrations that will be included, we feel this will be a valuable contribution to the scholarship of upstate New York, Otsego County, and Oneonta in particular. Plus, it's just really great reading," added Brzozowski.

Click here to read excerpts from the book, which is published by Square Circle Press and retails for $22.95. Books are available at the History Center or at www.squarecirclepress.com

183 Main Street: 150 Years of History

Click here for a slide show for a look at the Oneonta History Center and the five previous occupants of the first floor of the oldest brick building on Main Street.

Oneonta in 100 Objects

The Greater Oneonta Historical Society (GOHS) invites students at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College to participate in the development of Oneonta in One Hundred Objects.

Student Research Opportunity
Students will develop research on an individual object or a small group of objects representing Oneonta’s past, present, and/or future. Themes to consider include, but are not limited to, Oneonta’s built and natural environments, culture, politics, economics, ecology and geology, etc. The objects will be selected from the GOHS collections.

The project is open to students from all disciplines across the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. Interdisciplinary approaches, from museum studies to women’s and gender studies to environmental studies, are especially encouraged.

Requirements: Students will enroll in Independent Study at their institutions, undertake their own semester-long research with guidance from faculty advisors that results in a final product (such as a paper or Web page), then present their projects at the Oneonta History Center at an event at the end of the term. Students working with objects at the Oneonta History Center must honor GOHS protocols concerning access to the objects (including practices of handling and care and the facility’s hours). Because the projects will become part of the GOHS collections, we encourage final products that will be resources for future exhibition and research. Note: This is not an internship. Interested students should review their institution’s requirements for Independent Study projects, including policies concerning grades, with their faculty advisors.

Getting Started: Students intending to undertake research should begin their preparations during the preceding semester. Talk with your faculty advisor. Look at our Website (www.oneontahistory.org). Visit the Oneonta History Center (at the corner of Main and Dietz) during regular hours (Fridays 12 noon to 3pm and Saturdays 10am to 4pm, with other times for special events or by prior arrangement). Make an appointment with the GOHS Historian.

Plan Ahead! GOHS must receive a copy of the student's Independent Study form (with signatures and project description) in a timely manner.

Contact: GOHS volunteer Sallie Han at Sallie.Han@oneonta.edu

Students, follow this link for more information About the Project.

Please note that persons not enrolled in Hartwick or SUNY Oneonta may also engage in this research opportunity, without being enrolled in an independent study course. To pursue this opportunity, contact info@OneontaHistory.org

GOHS Gift Shop

Click here to see what's available at the GOHS Gift Shop!

Oneonta Bumper Sticker
Bumper Sticker

GOHS Mural Project

GOHS is undertaking an arts and history project that will result in five murals along the Dietz Street walls of the Oneonta History Center. The five murals will be painted by artist Carol Mandigo over the first floor windows which were bricked in decades ago. The murals will reflect daily life of the previous occupants of the 1866 building, the oldest brick building on Main Street.

The first use of the 1866 building was as a hardware store, for decades owned by Walter Brown and partners. During the 1870s it also was the first Oneonta location of Wilber Bank. For more than thirty years it was the Laskaris restaurant, ice cream parlor, and candy store. When the restaurant moved to the corner of Main and Chestnut, Antonia Chrones opened Jo-Ann Dress Shop at the location. Most recently it was the site of Galinn's Jewelry.

Carol Mandigo has a degree in Fine Arts from Stony Brook University and has been painting murals for many years. She is the co-founder with John Potocnik of the Catskill Puppet Theater Her great-grandparents owned Winney Hotel on Broad Street in Oneonta in the early 1900s. As Mandigo wrote in the grant application, "Windows in Time will be a long lasting, meaningful and highly visible public art project that will enhance Main Street and help Oneonta toward its goal of being a center for arts and culture in the area."

Executive Director Bob Brzozowski helped initiate the project. "It's part of the Society's mission to beautify Oneonta and make the Society’s building -- and Downtown -- come alive in a way that honors the history of the community." A bronze plaque near each mural will describe the corresponding era of the building's history. This program is made possible with public funds administered by the Chenango Arts Council, and is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature. The project was also supported by Main Street Oneonta and many private donors.

GOHS Plaque Program

GOHS has teamed with Erie Landmark Company to offer bronze and aluminum custom and specialty plaques. These include custom and standard plaques for the State and National Register of Historic Places sites. The original Walnut Street Historic District plaques are from Erie Landmark. Plaques come in various sizes, fonts and mounts, and may include photographs. Time capsules are also available.

Erie Landmark plaques are made by the Paul W. Zimmerman Foundries Company in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Information on the offerings can be found in print form at the History Center or by visiting www.ErieLandmark.com. The price is discounted on many of the plaques, if ordered through GOHS. Through this program, GOHS hopes to raise awareness of Oneonta's rich history with plaques in the Downtown Historic District and at other historic sites in the town and city.

For more information, contact Bob Brzozowski at director@oneontahistory.org or 431-9509.

Stephen Joseph Photos

Stephen Joseph's new book of photographs, Oneonta 360, is for sale at the History Center. Published by Oneonta's own Argian Press, the book of more than 80 local photos, retails for $40.00.

The original photos from the July 2008 SUNY Oneonta exhibit "Portrait of a Town: Stephen Joseph Celebrates Oneonta"remain on sale at the History Center, with part of the proceeds to benefit GOHS. (See Words & Pictures for examples of Steve's work and a link to his web site.)

Player Piano CDs!

GOHS now offers two CDs of player piano music, both recorded at the History Center. The player piano in the GOHS collection is from Oneonta's GB Shearer Company. It was donated in memory of Margaret Crandell, and was restored by Dave and Tom Smith of Upright Mechanical Music of Bainbridge, with partial funding from the Jackson H. Fenner Foundation, which also supported the second CD.

"Player Piano Plus" became available in December 2016. Local vocalists JoAnn Chmielowski, Stan Fox, Ciara Martinez, Duncan Smith, Judy Tator, and Too Many Divas sing on twelve classic songs such as "Puttin' on the Ritz," "Buttons & Bows" and "Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me". The vocalists were recorded in a studio to player piano music recorded at the History Center. The CD was produced by Brett Masteller, a former member of the music department at SUNY Oneonta.

Nineteen selections were chosen for the first CD from the GOHS piano roll collection. Classics such as "My Blue Heaven," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" are included as well as obscure oldies like "The Vamp," "All American Girl" and the "Husia Usia Polka". The CD was produced by independent music and video producer Keith Rodan.

The CDs are available at the History Center or by mail. They sell for $12 plus tax (postage for mail orders). For more information, call 607-432-0960 or email info@oneontahistory.org.

2016 Player Piano CD poster



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