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

Mark Simonson

May 5, 2014

Worcester rebounded from devastating 1994 fire


Chief Gorsch said on Wednesday evening, May 4, that the fire was set intentionally, and an investigation was underway by local and state authorities. Otsego County Fire Coordinator Lyle Jones estimated the loss of the buildings and contents at $5 million, not counting priceless historic items from the historical society.

Twenty years later, Dufresne, now Worcester Town Historian, said the arson case has never been solved.

They might have been down in 1994, but the Worcester Historical Society was certainly not out, as by Wednesday, June 1, the Star reported that the walls of the building and a new roof were being rebuilt. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of the other damaged buildings, as those were razed and the community began weighing options on what could replace them. A park was already in the thoughts of some local merchants and leaders, if new businesses couldn’t be attracted to the site.

The Star followed up a year later and found that progress was being made on the historical society’s building, and that they were re-organizing items that had been salvaged from the fire. The society had been recently awarded grants from the Dewar Foundation of Oneonta, Robinson Broadhurst Foundation of Stamford, Key Bank and Fay’s Drugs, to get the restoration work progressing.

In subsequent years, the Wheeler family donated the former store site and the McCabe family made a $25,000 donation in 2004 to help build the proposed park.

In 2005, the society purchased the site of the former Village Inn, and the first phase of construction of the park began in 2009.

On Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010, the Worcester Heritage Park was dedicated in a ceremony to restore the heart of the hamlet’s historic commercial district. What had been gaping holes and charred ruins in early May 1994 had been replaced by a gazebo, ornamental fencing and benches and developed green areas to provide a focal point for community events.

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Mark Simonson

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