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April 26, 2014

Oneonta businesses saw expansion in 1914

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The Daily Star

---- — The appearance of downtown Oneonta was changing during the spring of 1914 in the form of new buildings, expansion of an established business and a move to a new location, all as part of the “business beat” of yesteryear.

After 26 years of being on the second floor at 129 Main St., the Oneonta Building and Loan Association made the move of its books, furniture “and all other office paraphernalia” to new and more commodious quarters on Chestnut Street during the closing days of February. The Association’s first day of business at the new location was on Monday, March 2, according to the Oneonta Star.

“The suite of three offices are all on the south side of the building, facing the Windsor hotel.” The Association was where the parking lot is across from today’s NBT Bank, where the Windsor stood until the late 1950s.

“The first room will be the public office, immediately back of which will be Secretary Bolton’s library and private office, and at the rear of that is the private consultation room.” The Association opened here the same year Wall Street was opened to traffic, to Dietz Street.

The timing of the opening of Wall Street also came with the expansion of The Oneonta Department Store, Bresee’s. The Star reported on Friday, April 10, that the store was building an addition to the present building, in the rear. “The new structure will consist of two floors, each of which will be 150 feet deep and this joined to the present floor space of 8,500 square feet will make a total area of 34,000 square feet or just four times the previous space, and this does not include the basement.

“Yesterday the old Bundy Mansion was sold to Anderson and Close and it will be torn down immediately. This insures the fact that the new addition will be soon underway. The front elevation of the new structure is now on exhibition in the jewelry department window with its description and measurements underneath.”

While business may have been good for the Building and Loan Association and the Oneonta Department Store, the Oneonta Theatre was apparently in quite a slump at the time.

The Star reported on Thursday, April 23, “At the close of the performance last evening of The Dingbat Family, one of the most successful of the new musical comedies, being greeted by a small house, the company losing $134 by visiting the city, Resident Manager Roberts stated that unless the house is better patronized it will be closed for the summer at least.

“Mr. Roberts says that it is up to the public to determine whether they desire the house open or closed and upon their action the final decision will rest.”

A bit farther east in the downtown business district, it was reported on Friday, April 24, that the work on the new government building would begin Monday. We know it today as City Hall at 258 Main St. This building had been in the works since the early 1890s.

By the end of the week, excavation had seen significant progress for the basement, made easy because the former Briggs Lumber Co. had been on this site prior to vacating for the new government building.

It was reported that “local men will be employed as far as possible,” and that the limestone from a company in Bedford, Ind., was ready to be shipped to Oneonta.

Interestingly, the Star reported about “one complication that is feared is Silver creek. Should this rise to any degree during the excavation, the work might be interfered with. The high water in the creek has been the reason that the beginning of the work has been deferred for so long.”

The new building opened on June 14, 1915, functioning as a post office until the mid-1960s.

On Monday: A 1970 student strike at Delhi Tech.

Oneonta 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.