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March 30, 2013

Colliscroft became new Oneonta landmark in 1902

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The Daily Star

---- — If the Oneonta building trade sector of the economy could have awarded a plaque to a most valuable individual customer of 1902, it would have nearly been a shoo-in. That was Edward H. Pardee, who was listed in the Oneonta Directory around that time as a farmer, on Southside.

There have been numerous times over the years I’ve been asked about a mansion, visible as you drive along state Route 28, on the lower part of Franklin Mountain. The name of the place at the entrance shows Colliscroft. It was this site in 1902 that probably made a local contractor and several building suppliers smile often, courtesy of Edward H. Pardee.

Pardee was a native of Oneonta, born in September 1848 at a home “opposite of the site of St. James church,” as mentioned in his 1914 obituary. He was the son of Henry S. Pardee and Phoebe Huntington, and attended private school locally. Edward then “fitted himself for business” at a college in Poughkeepsie, and shortly after completing the course became associated with his uncle and Oneonta native Collis P. Huntington, the railroad magnate. Pardee worked in his uncle’s New York office for 25 years.

Upon retiring from active business life, Pardee chose to return to Oneonta, and he soon began receiving mention in brief local news items in The Oneonta Star.

On Thursday, May 8, 1902, one read, “E.H. Pardee, who has purchased the Alice Fritts home, on the South Side, purchasing also a home nearby for her use, has removed the Fritts home and is grading the grounds, planting a huge amount of ornamental shrubbery and laying out an attractive site for a spacious country residence. He has purchased also the lands between the highway and the Susquehanna, opposite the grounds, commanding thereby an unobstructed view of the Susquehanna, the flats opposite and, in fact, of the river valley for miles in one of its most beautiful sections.”

Pardee wasn’t alone in liking that area, as seen in a separate article on the same day, “While the growth on South Side has at no time approached a boom, it has been steady and substantial and the coming season is likely to see a larger outlay of money in buildings and improvements than any other previous season.”

Within days, it was reported that Pardee had purchased “a handsome carriage team” of horses, “a pair of stylish bay cobs,” so a carriage house was added to the plans.

Local residents learned from the Star on Friday, Dec. 12, 1902, “The attractive residence nearly completed of E.H. Pardee … has been named Collis Croft, in honor of his deceased uncle, Collis P. Huntington.”

As for the aforementioned economic impact of Colliscroft, the Star reported on Dec. 29, 1902, that more than $160,000 had been expended in building projects in Oneonta that year. Pardee’s expenditures of $10,000 for the mansion, $3,000 for the carriage house, and $1,000 for removing and then restoring Mrs. Fritts’ new home, amounted to just short of 10 percent of the total. The D&H railroad spent $20,000 on two new shops in the Oneonta railroad yards, and the First Baptist Society spent $25,000 on its new church at the corner of Chestnut and Academy streets.

Between the Pardee and D&H building projects, Nathan H. Briggs and Sons, the builders, smiled all the way to the bank during 1902. The style of architecture, not common to this area, remains a bit of a mystery, but relatives of E.H. Pardee who visited the site in 2005 speculated it was possibly influenced by similar mansions in Milledgeville, Ga., southeast of Atlanta, where Edward had relatives and visited in the past.

More work was scheduled in 1903, as reported on March 18. A water reservoir was to be built on the grounds, as well as a new barn and large poultry house. “He has secured Mr. Hogaboom as farmer for the place.”

Edward was active in local organizations such as the Oneonta City Club, once found at 51 Dietz St., as well as the Oneonta Country Club. As a bachelor, he apparently wasn’t much of an entertainer at his mansion, so on Friday, Jan. 15, 1904, a party was brought to him.

“A surprise house warming was given to E.H. Pardee … last evening, at which delicate refreshments were served by the going party.” The guest list had prominent last names such as Ford, Lewis, Kirkland, Elmore, Stewart and Fairchild in attendance. It was said, “they made a bachelor extremely happy without bringing him the sorrows of planning for the comfort of his guests in advance. The host rendered exquisite piano music by the aid of perforated rolls and was, withal, a most delightful entertainer.”

Pardee enjoyed Colliscroft until 1914. It remained in the family until 1949, and has had several private owners since.

On Monday: A bit of our local life and times in April 1958.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.