Backtracking: The Early Years: Notable local groundbreakings took place during August 1949

Mark SimonsonA view of the entrance to Morris Hall is shown in 2013. This was the first building on the new ‘upper campus,’ as ground was broken here on Aug. 9, 1949.


Groundbreakings and keeping a local institution going became stories about buildings during August 1949.


“Official ground breaking ceremony for the new dormitory and student social facilities buildings on the STC campus will take place at 11 a.m. today,” The Oneonta Star reported on Aug. 9. We know this as the Morris Hall complex on what was then a vacant stretch of land where the State University College at Oneonta’s sprawling campus now stands.

The building, to be erected that fall, was the first step in a $3 million building program planned on the “upper campus” within the next few years. Old Main and the Bugbee School was at that time the main campus at the top of Maple Street and Normal Avenue.

“According to Dr. Charles W. Hunt, college president, the edifice will house 204 students and provide for a social life for the entire student body. Estimated cost of the structure will be about $900,000.”

It had to have been a sight to see, watching nearly 500 local residents, students and staff trudging up the hillside on what is likely near the “cow path” behind Bugbee Hall today, to a ceremony.

As described in The Star the next day, Dr. Hunt turned the first spade of dirt, as did members of the college Board of Visitors, representatives of the State University of New York and other friends of the college.

“We have come here to break ground for the first building of our new campus,” Dr. Hunt told the crowd. “The plans have long been in the making, but they are now a reality. This is just the beginning of our educational program that will serve the people of the state and community for the next 50 years and more.”


“The Charles L. Jacobie Post, American Legion has voted to start construction of a new home immediately at an estimated cost of $16,000,” Star readers learned on Aug. 10. The actual groundbreaking took place on Aug. 23 at the corner of Division and Union streets.

“In charge of the ceremonies were members of the …building committee headed by Commander Ted Martin. Also participating were Lawrence B. Crawford and Emile DePloey, contractors of the firm of Penaro, Crawford and DePloey, who will do the general construction work.”

According to Mr. Crawford the new Legion headquarters project was expected to be completed for an official opening on Nov. 11.


Post World War II inflation had been putting its style of economic hurt on the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home in Cooperstown, and residents felt it was worthy of their support that year when a solicitation drive began.

As The Star of Aug. 20 reported, “For many years the cost of maintenance and operation was half of the present cost. Due to the higher age level, costs of nursing, medical care and hospitalization has greatly increased. Cost of supplies and the salaries to employees have more than doubled.

“Persons once looked upon the home as a Cooperstown institution. That notion has long since been dissipated. Eight of the 25 residents are from Oneonta.” This is why the drive became a countywide effort.

Miss Katherine H. Tobey and Thomas Plowdon-Wardlow co-chaired the Oneonta effort of the total goal of the county drive to raise $18,700. Oneonta vowed to shoulder $6,000 of the responsibility.

“This is the kind of home you would want your mother to live in … if ever she was left alone,” Miss Tobey said at a campaign meeting in Cooperstown. Sixty campaign workers covered the six Oneonta wards beginning Aug. 25.

Campaigns like these were short-lived, as directors of the home anticipated that benefactors would increase year by year until the home became self-supporting.

On Tuesday: many coped with a baseball strike in 1994.

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 His website is His columns can be found at

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