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Mark Simonson

June 14, 2014

Oneonta's brick, construction industries thrived in 1894

Any business that manufactured bricks, or anyone skilled in bricklaying and masonry, were in for a robust construction season in Oneonta in 1894.

There were several major buildings constructed in downtown Oneonta, but the biggest job of all was the reconstruction of the Oneonta Normal School, which burned to the ground on Feb. 15 that year.

The Oneonta Herald of March 22, 1894, reported, “The plans of the new Normal building, which were received by Dr. Milne on Monday, shows a building 80 feet longer than the old structure, and with much more floor space, the west wing extended ten feet further back, the east wing forty feet and the centre thirty feet, with a width of thirty feet additional.”

Translated, it meant an enormous number of bricks were needed. On April 12, the Herald reported, “The new Normal building will make busy work for the Oneonta brickyard on the South Side, the proprietors of which are to furnish all save the pressed brick for the structure. As it will require about 1,800,000 new brick for the building it will make 85 days steady work for the yard, which has a capacity of 20,000 bricks daily.”

The site of the brickyard wasn’t specified. Bricklaying began on Monday, April 23. Amazingly the building was completed in time to open for the fall semester.

The brickyard was a busy place well before the Normal School fire and reconstruction project. The downtown business district was rapidly growing on the north side of Main Street, east of Ford Avenue in an area across from today’s city hall building, 258 Main St.

“We understand,” came news in the Herald of Feb. 15, “that Geo. B. Shearer, who has secured an option on the Main street lot just east of the James Stewart property, contemplates the erection this spring of a three story brick building, 20 by 80 feet.”

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Mark Simonson

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