Backtracking: In Our Times: New housing, dormitory made news locally in October 1954

Mark SimonsonAs seen in 2008, this is the former home of Henry J. Becker, who developed this section of Oneonta’s West End for new housing near Butler Avenue and Greater Plains Elementary School. He had the nearby tract graded in October 1954.

From West End to East Street and on a college campus, new Oneonta housing projects were taking shape in October 1954.

“Room for housing expansion is shaping up in two picturesque localities on the city’s edge, one of level lowlands, the other on high ground,” The Oneonta Star reported on Oct. 14.

“One is in West End and is the enterprise of Fred J. Becker, the other is above the Eastland Heights development and is owned by Albert E. Farone and Manuel C. Barretto.” The first is north and east of Butler Street, while the second is north and west of East Street and Bugbee Road.

“Mr. Becker’s is definitely a housing site, but the Farone-Barretto tract, while shaping up as that, is not definitely pegged as such yet. Mr. Farone said last night he might cut it up into lots next spring, but in the meanwhile he might find other usages for it. ‘I’m not sure yet,’ he said.”

While Crestmont Terrace already existed at that time, the Farone-Barretto tract eventually became the neighborhood that includes Blodgett, College Park and Farone drives, and Birchwood, Brigham and Carson roads.

“Last night Mr. Becker went back to work as a D&H locomotive engineer after a three-week vacation in which he opened his West End development bordering the city line.

“The low and level tract is…in a pastoral setting fringed on one side by attractive woodland with low hills tumbling over each other in the far background while on the opposite side the rugged Table Rocks tower immediately over it.

“Mr. Becker already has opened an extension of Jefferson Avenue, on which his stone house and stone garage stands and in the past three weeks he has transformed the entire tract into possible home sites.” He opened a total of 65 lots and as reported, had already taken calls for sale of six lots.

“The Farone-Barretto site is part of the original Gifford farm and is above Crestmont Terrace,” the Star continued, “But until last night there was no entrance to it. The Public Service Board signed an agreement with Mr. Farone and Mr. Barretto, giving them an easement so they may open an access road from Bugbee Road to their acreage.

“The new road is to be 60 feet wide and about 300 feet long. The two are to lay a 16-inch drain pipe under it, and clear it of brush and stumps, but it shall remain open for public use.”

October continued, and it was soon learned that Mr. Becker had other development company in the West End.

The Star of Oct. 21 reported, “Excavations were started yesterday for five new single family dwellings in Meadow Vale, new West End development off Richards Avenue — first part a proposed 100-home suburb.

“The builders are Richard H. Finley and Peter Ottzen, who have already completed several homes in the Country Club Road section of West End.” They had purchased the Meadow Vale holdings from Robert R. Davis Realty Co.

“Meadow Vale, Mr. Davis said, was designed by Edward Boutelle and Sons, Delmar engineering firm, to meet the minimum property requirements of the Federal Housing and Veterans Administrations.” These initial five homes were set to be occupied before the end of the year.

New housing wasn’t limited to city residents that month, as The Star reported on Oct. 22, “A quarter century of community service reaches its zenith tomorrow when Mrs. Jesse Smith Dewar proudly watches Dewar Hall dedicated at Hartwick College.” A $240,000 gift of Mrs. Dewar and the Dewar Foundation made this new women’s dormitory possible.

The dedication speaker, a longtime friend of the Dewar family and Oneonta businessman, Roscoe C. Briggs, said, “You will be cherished in the hearts of thousands of girls who will come to live here, because you made it possible.” The ceremony was attended by hundreds of students, alumni, businesspeople and friends.

This weekend: Aviation made news regularly in Cooperstown in October 1919.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Tuesday columns address local history 1950 and later.  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/opinion/columns/.

Ask Mark... 

Have you ever had a question about a history-making event or a prominent person in our area and didn't know where to find the answer? Well, we've got an expert who might be able to help you. Historian Mark Simonson has spent many years chronicling major local happenings, and he's ready and willing to dive into The Daily Star archives for answers, which will appear in this newspaper and online at www.thedailystar.com.

Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com

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