Arthur Coy’s work crew probably had a significant audience of passers-by at times on Thursday, Nov. 15, 1917, as work began on clearing an old apple orchard on the Huntington property on Chestnut Street. We know the site today as Huntington Park and Huntington Memorial Library, and this work marked the start of turning the land into the places we enjoy today.
“On the plateau that lies back of Dietz street, on a level with Church street, and sloping down to Chestnut has stood for years the old family orchard,” it was reported in The Oneonta Star the next day. “Yesterday with a plow, a block and fall, and a strong team of horses, every one of the dozen or more fruit trees was pulled up by its roots to make way for shade trees, flowers and shrubs.”
Only a couple of weeks earlier, it was reported that Henry E. Huntington had formally tendered his old home and property, that of his parents, Solon and Harriet, to the city as a gift. Huntington, born in Oneonta, had moved on to become a railroad magnate, helping his uncle Collis P. Huntington build many railroads in the western United States.
In a letter dated Nov. 1 to Oneonta Mayor Andrew E. Ceperley, Huntington wrote, “If it should be the desire of the city to house its own library in the same building, it would be perfectly satisfactory to me, but if such is the desire, I would like to be notified in due season so that I can reconstruct the building to make it suitable for the housing of the city’s library.”
At that time, Henry Huntington had an attractive home at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York. A Star representative made the trip to New York to conduct an interview with Huntington for an article that appeared on Tuesday, Nov. 6.