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November 30, 2013

Railroad, related developments expanded Oneonta in 1863

The Daily Star

---- — Week after week, Oneonta and area residents followed the progress of the building of the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad as it slowly approached the village. Between the railroad and other business transactions, there were some significant developments in the late months of 1863, reported by The Oneonta Herald.


The railroad’s arrival had been a certainty, but where the village’s hub would be located remained a mystery until the report in the Nov. 25, 1863, edition.

“The Committee appointed by the Board of Directors to designate the location of the Depot buildings in this village, consisting of Messrs. Ramsey, Westover and Watson, met in this village last week, and after viewing the ground and hearing the opinions of those most interested in in the matter, decided that the best place, and most convenient for business men, and for the interest of the Company, and for the village as now situated, would be on the grounds of E.R. Ford, about seventy-five rods in the rear of said Ford’s store. There will be a road opened to the depot between Mr. Ford’s Store and McCrum’s dwelling house—the Engine house, shed and other buildings now occupying the space are to be moved off.”

Ford’s store was located near today’s Ford Block on Main Street, where Key Bank is. The road became Broad Street, demolished in the early 1970s for the city’s urban renewal program, and the site is now occupied by the Clarion Hotel and Muller Plaza. That original depot was near today’s Stella Luna Ristorante on Market Street, which was the third depot built on those grounds in 1892.


“Solon Huntington has run out a street commencing at the head of Dietz street, and running west to the road leading to Laurens, past Gilbert Campbell’s; he has extended the street up by the Methodist Church out to intersect the street running west from Dietz street.”

The streets referred to are part of the present Center Street and Church Street, respectively. Center Street was extended eastbound in later years. The road to Laurens mentioned is West Street, which eventually leads to the Laurens town line. Church Street was originally known as Centre Street, while today’s Center Street was known as Brook Street, as seen on an 1868 village map.

Huntington owned property where the library and park are today and a bit farther west on Chestnut Street. The lot extended well north, and his hope was to develop the lot, as reported on Nov. 25.

“That part of the village is destined to become thickly settled. We should think it would be a good idea for some of our moneyed men to build a few houses to rent, houses are scarce and rent high.”


In recent years with the growth of local microbreweries, there have been signs in our region of the return to growing hops, a cash crop that was plentiful and profitable in the 19th century. Additional crops for brewing beer have also been discussed to be grown locally.

From the Dec. 9, 1863, Herald it was told, “We understand that Richard A. Lesley, Esq. recently Proprietor of the Otsego Brewery at Cooperstown, has made a purchase of a plot of land and intends soon to erect a building for the purpose of manufacturing Ale in this village.” The site wasn’t specified.

“And here it is again! It does seem as if there is no business that can be started but that it will benefit the farmer, (and we are glad of it.) It is well known that a Brewery uses a large quantity of Barley, and as this kind of grain has not been marketable hereabouts it has not been raised by our farmers. But now a market will be opened, as Barley is a good paying crop for a farmer to raise, we advise them to sow a piece of Barley in the Spring and they will find a ready market for it.”

On Monday: NBA level basketball came to visit Oneonta’s armory in 1948.

Oneonta 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 His website is His columns can be found at