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Mark Simonson

November 11, 2013

Mansion was leveled for Cooperstown's Clark Sports Center

There were considerable rumbling and crashing sounds coming from the lower section of Susquehanna Avenue in Cooperstown 30 years ago this week. Workers on bulldozers were tearing down the 40-room Iroquois Mansion, in order to make way for the present Clark Sports Center.

The mansion dated back to the 1820s and for many years was the home to Mr. and Mrs. F. Ambrose Clark. Mr. Clark passed away in March 1964. Augusta Clark had more recently passed away in 1981. Ambrose married Augusta in 1952, after his first wife, Florence, had died in 1950.

Ambrose Clark had inherited the nucleus of the Iroquois Farm when he turned 21 years old in 1902 and over the years built it into a highly diversified agricultural enterprise spread over 2,200 rolling acres. Ambrose and his three brothers had each inherited a portion of their father Alfred Corning Clark’s business and fortune. Alfred had inherited the Singer Manufacturing Co. from his father, Edward Clark. From 1851-1863 Edward Clark was a business partner with Isaac Merritt Singer, and after Singer’s death, Clark became president of the growing company.

Including the mansion, Ambrose Clark developed the Iroquois Farm into one of the leading showplaces for agriculture in the state. He was a lifelong devotee of thoroughbred horse racing and was for many years an international leader in the sport. He maintained one of the nation’s top racing stables, but had disposed of it in an auction in 1963. In addition to this home in Cooperstown, Clark maintained homes in Westbury, N.Y. and Aiken, S.C.

With the mansion unoccupied in the early 1980s, an auction attracted 1,250 buyers here on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 1982. The two-day event had receipts of over $787,000. On the block that first day were 620 lots of American, English and Continental objects of art; furniture; bronzes; watercolors; paintings; reprints and drawings of sporting interest; oriental rugs and carpets; silver and plate; pottery and porcelain and English and Continental glass, according to The Daily Star.

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Mark Simonson

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