In recent decades, we’ve grown used to hearing about new businesses and industries coming to our region through varying names of economic or industrial development agencies.
Rarely, if ever, are local citizens asked whether they want a new industry to locate in our area. But the public had a chance to weigh in on one industry looking to make Oneonta home in June 1929.
As The Oneonta Star of June 27 reported, “Opportunity to secure the location at the Junction of a proposed factory building for the manufacture of the motor car trailer invented by H.H. Linn, designer of the famous Linn tractor and founder of the Linn Manufacturing Corporation at Morris, is now presented to the city, negotiations which have for some weeks between Mr. Linn and the industrial committee of the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce having been concluded with the receipt of a definite proposal from Mr. Linn and its acceptance by the Chamber of Commerce, at a well-attended joint meeting of the industrial committee and the Chamber directors late yesterday afternoon.”
The “Junction” mentioned refers to the corner of Chestnut and Oneida streets. Linn was looking at the site of what is today’s Commerce Plaza, 3200 Chestnut St.
“Briefly summarized,” The Star continued, “Mr. Linn desires to secure the four acre plot of land located contiguous to the tracks of the Southern New York Railway, near junction and adjoining the plot of lots owned by Mrs. Peter VanWoert near her residence and owned by Eugene E. Rixley and also some 11 of the VanWoert lots comprising about two acres, which would give the project six acres, ample for the first unit of the factory buildings together with an office building and room for expansion, should the demand for the Linn trailer reach the dimensions anticipated by those familiar with its merits.”
Mr. Linn said he liked Oneonta and wanted to locate the plant here, but it was learned that several other communities had reached out to him, to bring the factory to their community.
“The industrial committee…has taken an option upon the site desired,” for a total of $9,400. “While it is quite the custom of most municipalities to provide lands necessary for factory sites, Mr. Linn has proposed that if the city will provide this site he will personally contribute $3,500 for the purpose, leaving only $5,900 to be paid by the city.”
“The city,” it should be noted, didn’t mean city or town government funds. It meant individual subscriptions of area citizens who felt it would be beneficial to bring an industry to Oneonta.
“The Chamber directors and its industrial committee were unanimously of the opinion that the city could ill afford to decline this offer and that the factory should be secured. It is true that the Chamber funds are only sufficient to meet its fixed charges, but it is believed that the citizens will cheerfully contribute the sum of $5,900 for this very promising industry.”
A solicitation committee was formed by the chamber and a general public meeting was arranged for Friday evening, June 28 at the Plains School, then found at the corner of Chestnut Street and Winney Hill Road, where the Westgate Plaza now stands. At that time Mr. Linn explained his plans for the factory.
An update in the July 4 edition of The Star said the meeting had been well attended with, “Between 40 and 50 prominent men of that section of the city.” The article reminded those who had pledged to bring their pledged amounts to the Chamber of Commerce office promptly, so the deal could be finalized.
Star readers of July 11 learned that Linn and the industrial committee met to sign documents, make transfers of property, and to discuss plans for immediate construction. By July 18, Linn had already established a temporary office in what was called the Junction Hotel, to be used while the first part of the plant was built.
At last on Nov. 30, The Star told how the original 50-by-150 foot building was completed. A steel and brick building, “All construction was done by local contractors and labor. Whenever possible materials were purchased locally.”
The local investment of $5,900 turned out to be a good deal. Through Linn and other company names and products, the factory remained active in Oneonta until the mid-1970s.
On Tuesday, sports of all sorts in June 1974.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.
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