All events are free and open to the public unless noted otherwise.
Fighting Fire in Oneonta
GOHS' first exhibition of 2021 will about about the history of firefighting in Oneonta. "Up From the Ashes: Oneonta Shaped by Fire", which is scheduled to open on Friday February 12, will include the history of the early fire companies and the Oneonta Fire Department, significant fires, and early firefighting conventions in Otsego County.
March 24 - Zoom Event
GOHS will be holding a program to coincide with the "Up from the Ashes: Oneonta Shaped by Fire" exhibition via Zoom on Wednesday, March 24 at 6:30pm. Exhibition planners Carlene Bermann, Bob Brzozowski, and Laura Santos will discuss the exhibition, and present and former Oneonta Fire Department firefighters will participate. This program is free to the public. Click here for the Zoom link. Please email email@example.com with questions.
Oneonta History Crossword and Coloring Challenge
This March, in order to provide a safe alternative to our Children and Youth in-person activities during the Covid-19 pandemic, the GOHS Children and Youth Programming Committee is offering three different historical activities for school-aged children. They include a fire truck coloring page, for children age 3 to Grade 2; an Oneonta Streets crossword puzzle, for students grades 3 to 6; and an Oneonta History WebQuest Crossword Puzzle for students grades 7 to 12.
Any student who returns a completed puzzle or coloring page to GOHS will be eligible for a contest drawing to win one of several prizes. To be eligible for the prize drawing, completed puzzles and coloring pages must be returned by April 7, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. They may be submitted electronically to Hunt@OneontaHistory.org, mailed to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, Box 814, Oneonta, NY 13820, or dropped off at the History Center at 183 Main Street during business hours.
Links to download the puzzle and coloring sheets are available below; on our Facebook page; or in paper copies at the History Center at 183 Main Street.
If you would like more information, please send your questions to Hunt@OneontaHistory.org or call the History Center at 607-432-0960.
GOHS Names New Director
Dr. Marcela Micucci has been named the new Director of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society (GOHS). Dr. Micucci grew up in Oneonta and is a graduate of the Oneonta City Schools. Dr. Micucci earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from the State University College at Oneonta and both her Master’s degree in History and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in United States History from Binghamton University.
After completing her education, Dr. Micucci worked at the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan for two years and then at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Dr. Micucci prepared and presented several exhibitions at both the Museum of the City of New York and the Museum of the American Revolution. At the Museum of the City of New York, Dr. Micucci was the curator for the exhibit entitled “Rebel Women: Defying Victorianism” as well as the exhibits “Debating Vice: The Anti-Obscenity and Birth Control Movements, 1870-1930” and “Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics”. While at the Museum of the American Revolution, Dr. Micucci curated the exhibit “When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776 – 1807”.
Dr. Micucci has published her research work in several scholarly journals and been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times. She has been invited to speak and present papers at numerous professional conferences including the Daughters of the American Revolution State Conference in Washington, DC, where she was asked to speak on “The Nations First Women Voters”. Dr. Micucci has received several grants to support her work including a National Endowment of the Humanities grant for her work at the Museum of the American Revolution.
Dr. Micucci’s primary area of research interest is the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Specifically, Dr. Micucci has conducted extensive research on the theory that many women in New Jersey, including women of African decent, voted in both state and national elections in the late 18th century. What proved to be groundbreaking work, Dr. Micucci was able to uncover New Jersey voting records verifying, for the first time, that women voted in substantial numbers from 1800 to 1807. Dr. Micucci has also taught several history courses at Binghamton University.
When asked about her feelings upon returning to Oneonta to head the GOHS, Dr. Micucci responded, “This is my hometown and while I have been away for several years, I have lived and worked here for nearly two decades. I am excited to have the opportunity to return and step into this role so I can continue the work of everyone who has been devoted to preserving Oneonta’s history and heritage.” As for her goals in her new position, Dr. Micucci states that “Most of all I want to preserve the legacy of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society and all it has accomplished to date. Beyond that, I hope to be able to help in completing the restoration of the building at 183 Main Street, expand the development of new exhibits, programs, and the collection of important artifacts. Finally, I want to increase the community’s involvement in GOHS so all citizens understand the Historical Society and the History Center downtown are there for everyone to take advantage of for educational programs, interesting exhibits and research.” Commenting on what aspects of local history she finds most interesting, Dr. Micucci said “Oneonta’s local history is the very bedrock of my early motivation to pursue a career in public history. I am particularly interested in the social history of our City – the everyday people, places, events, and the objects they left behind that allow us to uncover the stories and experiences of the diverse men and women that wove the social fabric of Oneonta.”
Dr. Micucci began her new responsibilities in the beginning of February.
Retirement of Bob Brzozowski, Executive Director
Bob Brzozowski, Executive Director of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society (GOHS) has retired. Bob has been associated with the GOHS since 2003 when he joined the Board of Trustees of the organization. Bob succeeded Sally Mullen as President of the Board in 2003. In 2009, Bob left the Board and was appointed Executive Director of the Historical Society.
As Bob puts it, “when I came on board as President, the Oneonta History Center located at 183 Main Street in downtown Oneonta was a construction site. Much had to be done to the building. We did have a few off-site programs such as walking tours of the City, but there were no exhibits. The collections of the Historical Society, which had started to expand, were housed at Hartwick College and in some cases in members’ homes.”
With Bob as Board President, the History Center opened in June 2005. The first floor was completed housing the Oneonta History Wall, a permanent exhibit of GOHS, as well as space for temporary exhibits, educational programs and a gift shop. Today the GOHS prepares and hosts three to four major exhibits a year on the first floor space as well as several smaller displays. Educational programs have expanded with at least one program a month during the year. As Executive Director, Bob oversaw the installation of an elevator to increase accessibility as well as the complete renovation of the History Center’s second floor which now houses the permanent collections of important artifacts related to Oneonta and the surrounding area. Soon, the Sally Mullen Memorial Suite will be opened on the second floor as a community resource center for local history. The third phase of the renovation is the third floor and that will need to be completed by Bob’s successor. However, Bob has insured that the project will be completed by securing a substantial New York State legislative grant, thanks to then-Senator Jim Seward, to restore the third floor as well as the exterior brick and tile work. Included in the third floor work will be the restoration of the original ballroom.
When asked about his biggest challenges during his time at the GOHS, he responds that “securing the funds to restore the building so it is a substantial contribution to downtown, including bringing back the historic Laskaris façade and increasing the weight bearing capacity of the second floor, while safeguarding the artifacts and archives in our collections. Those were big challenges, but working with a team of dedicated volunteers was a rewarding experience.”
Among his many accomplishments, Bob states what he enjoyed most while leading the GOHS was the great privilege and pleasure of meeting so many citizens from the area who share his love of history in general and local history in particular. Having the opportunity to watch the GOHS grow and contribute to the cultural and economic development of Oneonta has been a true honor.
The Board of Trustees of the GOHS has recently decided to name the Oneonta History Wall permanent exhibit the Brzozowski Oneonta History Wall in Bob’s honor. Bob and his wife, Jane Bachman, plan to remain in Oneonta and stay involved in local history and historic preservation. A community reception for Bob will be held at the Oneonta History Center when it is safe to do so.
Damaschke Field Grandstand
The grandstand at Damaschke Field, a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression, was razed in 2019. Click the link here to learn more about the grandstand and view photos and drone footage of its last days.
Oneonta Theatre Update
The leadership of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society is committed to doing what it can to save the historic Oneonta Theatre (1897) as an historic structure on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and as a performance venue. To that end, GOHS was the lead organization, in collaboration with the Friends of the Oneonta Theatre (FOTOT), in applying for technical assistance funds from the city of Oneonta's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The successful grant application funded a feasibility study and business plan for the theater to reopen as a performance venue. Webb Management Services of NYC was chosen to conduct the study. Five per cent of local funding, required by the terms of the grant, were provided by FOTOT. The final report of Webb Management Services (WMS) of NYC was completed in February 2019.
For more information on Oneonta's Downtown Revitalization Initiative in general and other aspects of the feasibility study secured by GOHS and FOTOT in particular, click here.
FOTOT was formed in 2008 as a 501(c)3 non-profit to help support the privately-owned Oneonta Theatre. After a period of dormancy, the organization became active again after the theater was closed on January 1, 2018, and put up for sale. The current FOTOT officers are Chair Bob Brzozowski, immediate past executive director of GOHS; Elizabeth Dunn, PhD. Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at SUNY Oneonta: and treasurer Wendy Hunt, CPA.
Site control of the theater is a priority for FOTOT and the 47 Chestnut LLC, the group formed to purchase the theater. The LLC is seeking persons interested in investing in the theater by becoming an LLC member for $5000 per membership. Contact Bob Brzozowski at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a prospectus.
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.)
GOHS Highlights of 2019-2020
Click on the link to read the GOHS Highlights of 2019-2020.
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
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!
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 Marcela Micucci at email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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