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.

Saturday September 21

The Children’s Programming Committee and the Studio for Art and Craft will present a free event from 10 AM to 12 noon at the History Center. Recommended for children ages 8 to 12, the activity will provide interactive experiences relating to the History Center's current exhibition, "The Oneonta '49ers and the California Gold Rush”. The activities will include learning about the lifestyle and hardships of the '49ers through multimedia, an exhibition hunt, and a hands-on clay workshop. Led by Jacqui Hauser of the Studio for Art and Craft, children will learn about, decorate, and take home a clay vessel of a type used by the '49ers. Refreshments will be provided. Space is limited so please make a reservation for this free program by contacting the History Center at (607) 432-0960.

Wednesday October 2

The evening begins at 6 PM with a presentation by Collette Tours Colby Yeaton on GOHS' fundraiser trip to Arizona and Utah's Canyon Country in May 2020. See the story below for more information.

At 7 PM will be the presentation of GOHS annual awards. Deb Bruce and Corine Smith are the 2019 recipients of the Eduard Hofbauer Outstanding Service Awards willto Deb Bruce and Corinne Smith. Wayne Wright is the recipient of the Albert E. Morris Award for his contributions to local history.

After the presentation of the Hofbauer and Morris awards, there will be a short business meeting, including the election of Trustees and officers. The evening, with refreshments, is free and open to the public, though only members may vote.

Sunday October 6

GOHS is pleased to welcome Carleton Watkins scholar Weston Naef to the History Center at 3 PM. Naef is curator emeritus and founding curator of photographs of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. He has written several books on the history and art of photography, including Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs with Christine Hult-Lewis (2011). Naef sent the following information about his talk: “Of the six men who left Otsego County in the winter of 1849, Watkins was the best traveled and most colorful one of that group. I will discuss the scope of his travels that include several return visits tohis birthplace, Oneonta. My remarks will be phrased in the context of Herman Melville's amazing novel, Moby Dick, that was being written in 1848 and 1849, just when Watkins and the others were planning their journey to California.” The event is free and open to the public.

Saturday October 12 & Monday October 14

GOHS will be part of New York State’s Path Through History over the Columbus Day weekend. The Center will be open Saturday October 10 and Monday October 12, with special events in the works.

Tuesday October 15

Rev. Ken Hunter of St. James Church has organized a GOHS series of films based on the works of Willard Huntington Wright, writing under the name of S.S. Van Dine. It is hoped that the series will encourage saving the 31 River Street house, where some of the writer’s books, which eventually became films, were written. The first film in the series is “The Greene Murder Case” (1929) with William Powell as Philo Vance and Jean Arthur. The program at the History Center begins at 7 PM and include introductory remarks and a talk back after the film. Admission is free, though donations will be accepted.

Saturday October 19

Join us for the 4th annual “Hops for History”! GOHS is presenting this popular event in cooperation with Northern Eagle Beverages and seven downtown eateries. The day begins at the History Center with wristband pickup and a beer sampling preview between 4 and 5:30 PM. Between 5 and 8 PM, ticket holders will visit at the Autumn Café, b side ballroom & supper club, Fiesta Mexican Grill & Cantina, Hill City Grill, Red’s Ale House & Grill, Simply Thai, and Wise Guys Sammys for a tasting of a Northern Eagle product and a food pairing prepared by the venue. To end the night, ticket holders pay half the cover price for the b side’s evening entertainment –- the “heavy soul” of the John Scarpulla Band, 9 PM till closing. Only 125 tickets will be sold. Tickets, for sale at the History Center beginning Friday September 20, are $25 per person in advance and $30 on the day of the event. The ticket price includes a commemorative pint glass. All proceeds from this FUNdraiser will benefit GOHS.

Tuesday October 22

Rev. Ken Hunter has organized this series of films based on the works of Willard Huntington Wright, writing under the name of S.S. Van Dine with the hope that they will encourage saving the 31 River Street house, where some of the writer’s books, which eventually became films, were written. The second film in the series is "The Bishop Murder Case" (1930) with Basil Rathbone as the famous detective. The event at the History Center begins at 7 PM and includes introductory remarks and a talk back after the film. Admission is free, though donations will be accepted.

Saturday October 26

Presented by the Children’s Programming Committee,?Halloween Stories is a free event for children at 2 PM at the History Center. Children will hear scary stories and are encouraged to share their own eerie short stories with the group. This event is recommended for children? ages 8 to 12. Refreshments will be provided. Space is limited. Please reserve your child’s spot at (607) 432-0960.

Tuesday October 29

Rev. Ken Hunter has organized this series of films based on the works of Willard Huntington Wright, writing under the name of S.S. Van Dine with the hope that they will encourage saving the 31 River Street house, where some of the writer’s books, which eventually became films, were written. The third and final film in the series is "The Dragon Murder Mystery" (1934)with Warren Williams as Philo Vance . The event at the History Center begins at 7 PM, and includes introductory remarks and a talk back after the film. Admission is free, though donations will be accepted.

Friday November 8

GOHS’ largest fundraiser of the year, our Benefit Auction, will take place at the Quality Inn on Route 23. There will be hundreds of items in the live and silent auctions. GOHS Trustee Kevin Herrick of Lettis Auction will be our auctioneer. Doors will open at 5:30 PM. Admission is free. The Quality Inn will have drinks and food available for purchase.The auction’s success depends upon interesting items to bid on and plenty of bidders! Keep GOHS in mind if you are downsizing, cleaning out the attic or garage – or know someone who is. Quality jewelry, antiques, art, and wines always go well. Gift certificates, event tickets, and experiences such as dinners and field trips are also popular. If you have donations or need more information, call Loraine Tyler at (607) 433-2452 or Bob Brzozowski at the History Center at (607) 432-0960.

May 2020

GOHS is partnering with Collette Tours on one of Collette’s most popular tours -– an eight-day trip through Arizona and Utah’s Canyon Country. Collette’s Colby Yeaton will be visiting the History Center to tell us more about the May 2020 trip on October 2 PM, just before the Annual Meeting. The flight from Albany will go to Phoenix with the first night spent in Scottsdale. There will be time to shop in Sedona's marketplace and travel through Kaibab National Forest. Tour participants will spend a night at the South Rim of Grand Canyon, and two nights at the Lake Powell Resort. There will be two nights in Springdale for visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. The final overnight stay is in Las Vegas, before the return flight to Albany. Folks who sign up the night of the presentation will receive a special discount on this fundraiser for GOHS.




GOHS News



The Oneonta '49ers Exhibition

“The Oneonta ‘49ers” exhibition opened on August 16. In 1849 storekeeper Collis Huntington left Oneonta to open a branch store and find his fortune in California. He was accompanied by five other local men -- Leroy Chamberlin, Daniel Hammond, George Murray, Egbert Sabin, and Carleton Watkins. "The Oneonta '49ers" tells their story. The exhibition includes life in the newly incorporated village of Oneonta, the group’s trip to California, their intertwined lives, and the Huntington and Watkins legacies. Two of the new Californians from Oneonta had tremendous influence regionally and nationally: Collis Huntington became one of the Big Four of railroading, and Carleton Watkins was one of the pioneers of photography of the American West. The exhibition, which includes related artifacts and a slide show of dozens of Carleton Watkins’ photographs, has been extended to continue through Saturday November 23.

Oneonta Theatre Update

GOHS 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 Downtown Revitalization Initiative technical assistance funds for a feasibility study and business plan for the theater. Webb Management Services of NYC was chosen to conduct the study. The 5% 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.


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 2017-2018

Click on the link to read the GOHS Highlights of 2017-2018.

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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