Backtracking: The Early Years: A new park, other improvements made in Oneonta in June 1921

Whether outdoors or indoors, the improvements were plentiful in Oneonta during June 1921.

Where the Clinton Plaza now stands, particularly the area where the outer building is along Market Street, this area looked vastly different a century ago. Rather than retail shops and restaurants, the area’s feel was much more leisurely.

As The Oneonta Star of June 11 reported, “At an adjourned meeting held last evening, Alva Seybolt esq., appeared before the Common Council and in behalf of former Senator Walter L. Brown and wife tendered to Mayor Ceperley a deed conveying to the city of Oneonta all of that splendid tract of land tying practically in the heart of the business section between Main and Market streets and locally known as Brown park. For years the people have by the courtesy of Mr. Brown had practically free access to the property, but now he desires to confirm and make perpetual this public use.”

Walter Brown’s home was across the street from this area, an attractive brick house still seen at 97 Main St.

“Mr. Seybolt, in a brief address before transferring the deed, spoke of the good fortune of the city of Oneonta, which to the matter of parks has come into possession absolutely without cost of properties which in other cities would have required great sums of money.” Seybolt went on to name Dr. and Mrs. Lewis Morris, George I. Wilber and Henry E. Huntington for their gifts of Neahwa, Wilber and Huntington parks, respectively — all within recent years. Brown Park only lasted until 1959, replaced by a municipal parking lot.

Practically a walk around the block, some significant improvements were underway, indoors.

According to The Star of June 13, “O.S. Hathaway, owner of the Oneonta Theatre, was in the city the latter part of last week and brought with him amended plans for the completion of the new and enlarged theatre building, work upon which had been suspended owing to the war conditions which precluded completing the building when expected.

“Mr. Hathaway was able to secure the hearty cooperation of the contractors McFee & Borst, and a force of men were at work on the job Saturday morning. It is now expected that the enlarged building will be completed and the new seats installed ready for an opening early in August. Stage improvements were also made in this project.

Practically across the street on Chestnut, the Huntington Library and park had been around nearly a year. The former library, before coming to the former Huntington mansion, had been found at 17 Ford Ave., known as the Getman house. It had been repurposed since its closing.

As readers of The Star of June 28 found out, “The new community house … was officially opened to the public yesterday afternoon. This building…has been remodeled and redecorated inside so that it provides adequate and attractive offices for several of the organizations for civic betterment. In providing this central headquarters for these organizations the city has taken a step that will greatly help them to cooperate in their work. It will also make it easier for citizens who are in need of the services of one of the agencies to locate the proper person with the minimum effort.”

Several social service agencies made this their home, and some listed in the article were the American Red Cross and Otsego Tuberculosis Committee. It also had a large assembly room on the first floor, suitable for meetings and social functions.

Summer time also meant outdoor concert time, and for a short time things looked bleak for Oneonta in 1921. As The Star also reported on June 28, “The Oneonta City band, which for nearly a quarter of a century past, has endeavored to maintain a first class musical organization in this city, passed out of existence at the last meeting.

“Since the city band passed from existence, James Keeton Jr., who has acted as bandmaster for the past two seasons, immediately organized a private band to be known as Keeton’s band.” It was noted that most of the members came from the city band.

On June 30 at an outdoor concert it was reported that the public got to hear the new band “on the lawn at Main street and Ford avenue.” It was described as “very creditable.”

On Wednesday: Fleischmanns went Hollywood for a while in 1996.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday 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 His website is His columns can be found at

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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

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

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