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Mark Simonson

February 17, 2014

Effort to establish Oneonta historic district began in 1970s


Residents of the neighborhood and many others around Oneonta felt this area of the city was worthy of the designation. The area still had the appearance of a time when Oneonta’s merchants and professionals, supported by the growth and prosperity of the Delaware & Hudson Railway and State Normal School, became attracted to Walnut Street, where they built grand and imposing homes. Between 1850 and 1915, numerous mansions replaced hop warehouses and a scattering of more commonplace homes.

What began was a nearly four-year process to be placed on the register. Mayor James Lettis had received some inquiries from residents in this proposed historic district about their rights as property owners, if it was to be designated.

Lucy Breyer, a field representative with the state’s Historic Preservation Department, told residents and members of Common Council on Tuesday, March 21, 1978 that their rights would not be affected, and that owners could become eligible for federal grants-in-aid and some federal tax deductions. Breyer also said what might have happened to Walnut Street in the 1940s through ‘60s would be much more difficult to repeat.

“It doesn’t mean that a federal highway won’t go through the property, but it does mean that a review of the impact on the property will be undertaken and perhaps the highway would be rerouted,” Breyer explained. 

By 1979, the Walnut Street area had been nominated to the National Register. The document was prepared by Daniel D. Mayer, then an executive with the New York State Historical Association. During the course of that year, an inventory of houses and other structures were taken in an area including Walnut, Maple, Elm and Church streets, and Ford Avenue.

The Walnut Street Historic District was placed on the National Register in February 1980. A similar state historic designation came several years later.

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Mark Simonson

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