The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Mark Simonson

May 5, 2012

Congressman Fairchild added downtown growth in 1912

Another case of wandering imagination struck this historian recently, while learning about the building at 244-248 Main St. in Oneonta, storefronts for the Autumn Café and Razzle Dazzle.

This structure is known as the Fairchild block, and it turns 100 this year.

It was announced in the May 16, 1912, edition of The Oneonta Herald that the site where the newspaper was printed, the Herald block, was set to be torn down in the next few weeks. Congressman George W. Fairchild owned this block, and was set to build a much-larger structure on the same location, with a basement and three floors above it.

Fairchild had a good amount of money to invest, as he'd been an early investor in Bundy Time Recorder Co., which had merged with other companies to become Computing Tabulating Recording Corp. in 1911, a forerunner to International Business Machines. The returns on that investment had been excellent, to date.

My imagination has crews of workers and horse-drawn wagons one day in early June, busily dragging the Herald's flatbed presses, cases upon cases of lead type, cabinets and other equipment along Main Street to a new home at 12-14 Broad St., where The Oneonta Star was then located, to become a shared printing plant.

Other than being a small building, there was nothing wrong with the Herald block, as when it was built in 1878 it was considered to be one of the finest in the village. Hundreds attended a "housewarming" event at the completion of construction. At that time, there was a winding staircase from the business office and work room of the newspaper to the floor above, the office of Edward M. Johnson, the editor and proprietor of the Herald. The building had always housed the newspaper and a few other businesses, but Mr. Fairchild had plans for a bigger and better building, to extend from the Municipal Building, today's 242 Main St., to a building at the corner of today's South Main Street, which was then called the Arthur Butts block.

As reported in the Herald, "The new building will be architecturally one of the finest in the city and no pains will be spared by the owner in making the stores and offices most desirable. Mr. Fairchild expects to occupy a suite of offices on the second floor when the building is completed. Already many inquiries and several applications for rooms, stores and offices have been received."

This meant a short walk to work for Fairchild, as his mansion was at the corner of Grand and Main streets, today's Masonic Temple.

The architect for the new building was Orlo Epps, and the winning bid for construction came from Lyman H. Blend, for $15,312. Work began during the last week of August.

That area of Main Street was undergoing a lot of change at the time.

The Butts block was still fairly new, and it replaced the former Wilber block, which had burned in 1906.

Excavations were under way in early October 1912 to change the path of South Main Street, to align with the path of Ford Avenue.

That was because plans were set to build a new Federal building, a project Congressman Fairchild had been working to secure for years.

It is today's City Hall, 258 Main St. Prior to the excavations, South Main Street had met Main Street near this site.

As listed in a 1914 Oneonta city directory, the two storefronts in the Fairchild block were businesses for I.J. Bookhout, home furnishings, and Sniffen & Laidlaw, millinery.

Two real estate firms, Oneonta Ice Co., a doctor's office and a Knights of Columbus club room were listed on the upper floors.

On Monday: Oneonta heard a new radio station in 1972.

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 simmark@stny.rr. com. His website is www. oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.

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