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April 8, 2013

Dietz Street shifted from residential to commercial through the years

By taking a walk along Dietz Street today, heading north to Walnut Street, one can see a lot of businesses and the recently refurbished parking lot on the east side of the street. It would take some imagination to see this street lined with houses and a church, but prior to the late 1940s, that’s what was there.

Big changes began for Dietz Street during the 1920s. Huntington Park and Library opened in July 1920. Business blocks were expanding northbound from Main Street, including the Dibble Block, where the CDO Workforce is found today at 8-12 Dietz St, built in 1921. The Van Wie Block, next door, was built around the same time.

Fire destroyed the United Presbyterian Society, listed as 18 Dietz St., in December 1929. The congregation rebuilt their church at the corner of Walling Avenue and Main Street, with a dedication in 1932.

As early as 1926, an area near Dietz Street was considered for a parking lot, between Ford Avenue and behind the businesses on the north side of Main Street. It wasn’t until April 1931 when the Empire Oil Co. completed arrangements with the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce to lease property behind what were then the Wilber National Bank and Hotel Oneonta. The lot was set to open in June 1931, with entrances from Dietz and Main Streets. A Ford Avenue entrance was later added.

That’s about as far as the sprawl northbound from Main Street got until the late 1940s. Zoning changes in the city allowed the extension of commercial zones so that both sides of Main and Chestnut Streets could be opened for business expansion throughout their entire length of the city limits. Dietz Street was also part of the change.

There had been no public objection to the changes for Main and Chestnut streets, but some Dietz Street residents weren’t pleased. An extension of businesses was proposed for the west side of Dietz Street from Huntington Park to near Reynolds Avenue in May 1948.

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