Greater Oneonta
Historical Society

P.O. Box 814
Oneonta, NY 13820

Upcoming Events

All events are free and open to the public unless noted otherwise.

Friday April 15

The History Center will be open 5:00 to 8:00 PM for the year's first Fabulous Friday, but the mural installation planned for this evening has been postponed to May 20.

Sunday April 17

At 2 PM, Tony Opalka of the NYS Historic Preservation Office will present The First Karaoke Machine? The history of the player piano and popular American music of the twentieth century. Opalka promises that the History Center audience will “learn the history of this amazing instrument and listen to favorite selections from my collection of over 500 rolls played on GOHS’s Oneonta-made player piano.” He took piano lessons starting at age 7, and started college as a piano major. He was long fascinated by player pianos but only got his own in 1998. Opalka became interested in architectural history in college, obtained a master’s in urban planning with a concentration in historic preservation and has worked in the field for more than 40 years, but never lost interest in music history. This program is free and open to the public.

Wednesday April 20

GOHS' Annual Dinner will be held at Toscana Northern Italian Grill, 76 Chestnut Street, on Wednesday April 20 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM. We will again enjoy the offerings of co-owners Angelo Carimando and Tony Pepaj and their talented culinary team. Each dinner includes choice of entree plus appetizers, a side salad, coffee or tea, and vanilla roulade with strawberry filling topped with honey lavender cream. Tax and gratuity are included in the $35 price. There will be a cash bar, serving a variety of beers and wines. A prize raffle will help raise funds for the building project and there will be a review of the building's past, present, and future. Dinner will be prepaid, with a deadline of April 12. Order early, since there is a limit of 60 diners. Please print and complete the form below and mail it to GOHS with your payment.

Annual Dinner Reservation Form

Saturday April 30

GOHS' 12th Annual Postcard & Ephemera Show & Sale will be held Saturday April 30 from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM at the Elks Lodge, 84-86 Chestnut Street. Vendors will display vintage postcards of local and general interest as well as other vintage paper such as sheet music, posters, documents, advertising blotters, and sport and trade cards. GOHS will have a table selling donated postcards. This year admission is free. Free parking is available in the Elks’ parking lot. There will be a 50/50 raffle. All participants in the raffle will receive a coupon good for 10% off purchase (minus alcoholic beverages) at Sloan's New York Grill, 337 Chestnut St. The Elks will be selling coffee, tea, and soda as well as food at the event. For vendor information or other questions about the event, call GOHS executive director Bob Brzozowski (431-9509) or Board member Bill Pietraface (432-1385).

12th Annual Postcard & Ephemera Show & Sale

Friday May 6

The History Center will have its fourth annual Cakewalk on from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. There will be a dozen cakewalks throughout the evening -- a dozen ways to win a delicious cake (or gift certificate for a cake) donated by a local baker! Participants purchase a ticket, then walk on numbered squares while a tune is played on the Shearer player piano. When the music stops, everyone stops on a square. A number is drawn, and the person standing on the matching number wins the cake of their choice.

Friday May 13

"From the Collections" exhibit opens. As at most museums, the vast majority of GOHS collections are not on permanent display. This exhibit will showcase just some of the thousands of items in the collections. Visitors will see items that have been in the collections for decades as well as new donations. “From the Collections” is scheduled to run through Saturday August 20.

Sunday May 15

A reception for the new "From the Collections" exhibit will be held from 2PM to 4 PM. Refreshments will be served. The reception is free and open to the public.

Friday May 20

On this Fabulous Friday, we are to see the third of five Dietz Street murals, depicting the five occupants of the first floor of 183 Main. At 6:00 PM, artist Carol Mandigo’s mural of Brown’s Hardware will be unveiled.

Tuesday May 24

Reservations are now being taken for GOHS’ one-day bus trip to Auburn. Our host will be former Oneonta City Manager and GOHS member Mike Long, who lives in Auburn and has played an integral role in promoting its history. The day’s activities include:

  • The Harriett Tubman Home: Tubman (c1822-1913) was a former slave who was a conductor for the Underground Railroad. Her home in Auburn for decades, this is one of three National Historic Landmark sites in Auburn associated with the great abolitionist and humanitarian.
  • The Seward House Museum: Known most for “Seward’s Folly”, William Seward (1801-1872) was governor of New York, a U.S. senator, and Secretary of State under both Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Seward called this National Historic Landmark home for almost 50 years.
  • Willard Memorial Chapel: The work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the chapel (1892-1894) is the only complete and unaltered Tiffany chapel known to exist.
  • Springside Inn: Lunch will be at the historic inn on Lake Owasco. Meal choices include an entree (see form), a garden salad, roll and butter, fresh vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, dessert, and coffee or tea.
  • Skaneatles: On the trip home, the bus will stop in downtown Skaneatles for dinner on your own.

The cost of the trip is $100 and includes travel on an Eastern Travel coach, admission to all three buildings, lunch, and gratuities.

Auburn Trip Reservation Form



GOHS News


Tony Mongillo's Oneonta

The art of local artist Antonio (Tony) Mongillo will be on exhibit beginning Friday January 29. Mongillo was born in 1924, grew up in the Sixth Ward, and graduated from Oneonta High School in 1942. He began working for the D&H in 1943, served in the US Navy from 1943 to 1946, then returned to the D&H, retiring in 1985. He began drawing as a boy, working in pencil and in pen and ink. His interest in drawing steam engines dates to when he started to work with them at the Oneonta Roundhouse. Some of the pieces on exhibit will be from the GOHS collections, while others will be on loan from the Mongillo family. If you have a favorite piece that you would like to loan for this exhibit, please contact Bob Brzozowski at 432-0960 or director@OneontaHistory.org.

Other 2016 Exhibits and Displays

Following the Tony Mongillo exhibit will be an exhibit which features selected items from the thousands in the GOHS collection. The "From the Collection" exhibit will be followed by an exhibit on Oneonta and the history of aviation. Along with the exhibit will be the unveiling of a display at the Oneonta Airport in September 2016 on the 50th anniversary of the municipal airport. And throughout 2016 there will be displays on our historic building, the oldest brick building on Main Street, in celebration of its 150th anniversary.

Main Street 150 Years poster

GOHS continues to work with the Oneonta Job Corps Academy (OJCA) and Hartwick College to recognize the history of the Homer Folks Tuberculosis Hospital (HFTH) on its former campus on West Street. Plans include a room dedicated to that history in the administration building of the former HFTH, now OJCA.

Highlights of the Past Year

Click here to read the Fall 2015 Highlights of the Past Year.

Oneonta in 100 Objects

The Greater Oneonta Historical Society (GOHS) invites students at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College to participate in the development of Oneonta in One Hundred Objects.

Student Research Opportunity
Students will develop research on an individual object or a small group of objects representing Oneonta’s past, present, and/or future. Themes to consider include, but are not limited to, Oneonta’s built and natural environments, culture, politics, economics, ecology and geology, etc. The objects will be selected from the GOHS collections.

The project is open to students from all disciplines across the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. Interdisciplinary approaches, from museum studies to women’s and gender studies to environmental studies, are especially encouraged.

Requirements: Students will enroll in Independent Study at their institutions, undertake their own semester-long research with guidance from faculty advisors that results in a final product (such as a paper or Web page), then present their projects at the Oneonta History Center at an event at the end of the term. Students working with objects at the Oneonta History Center must honor GOHS protocols concerning access to the objects (including practices of handling and care and the facility’s hours). Because the projects will become part of the GOHS collections, we encourage final products that will be resources for future exhibition and research. Note: This is not an internship. Interested students should review their institution’s requirements for Independent Study projects, including policies concerning grades, with their faculty advisors.

Getting Started: Students intending to undertake research should begin their preparations during the preceding semester. Talk with your faculty advisor. Look at our Website (www.oneontahistory.org). Visit the Oneonta History Center (at the corner of Main and Dietz) during regular hours (Fridays 12 noon to 3pm and Saturdays 10am to 4pm, with other times for special events or by prior arrangement). Make an appointment with the GOHS Historian.

Plan Ahead! GOHS must receive a copy of the student's Independent Study form (with signatures and project description) in a timely manner.

Contact: GOHS volunteer Sallie Han at Sallie.Han@oneonta.edu

Students, follow this link for more information About the Project.

Please note that persons not enrolled in Hartwick or SUNY Oneonta may also engage in this research opportunity, without being enrolled in an independent study course. To pursue this opportunity, contact info@OneontaHistory.org

GOHS Gift Shop

Click here to see what's available at the GOHS Gift Shop!

Oneonta Bumper Sticker
Bumper Sticker

GOHS Mural Project

GOHS is undertaking an arts and history project that will result in five murals along the Dietz Street walls of the Oneonta History Center. The five murals will be painted by artist Carol Mandigo over the first floor windows which were bricked in decades ago. The murals will reflect daily life of the previous occupants of the 1866 building, the oldest brick building on Main Street.

The first use of the 1866 building was as a hardware store, for decades owned by Walter Brown and partners. During the 1870s it also was the first Oneonta location of Wilber Bank. For more than thirty years it was the Laskaris restaurant, ice cream parlor, and candy store. When the restaurant moved to the corner of Main and Chestnut, Antonia Chrones opened Jo-Ann Dress Shop at the location. Most recently it was the site of Galinn's Jewelry.

Carol Mandigo has a degree in Fine Arts from Stony Brook University and has been painting murals for many years. She is the co-founder with John Potocnik of the Catskill Puppet Theater Her great-grandparents owned Winney Hotel on Broad Street in Oneonta in the early 1900s. As Mandigo wrote in the grant application, "Windows in Time will be a long lasting, meaningful and highly visible public art project that will enhance Main Street and help Oneonta toward its goal of being a center for arts and culture in the area."

Executive Director Bob Brzozowski helped initiate the project. "It's part of the Society's mission to beautify Oneonta and make the Society’s building -- and Downtown -- come alive in a way that honors the history of the community." A bronze plaque near each mural will describe the corresponding era of the building's history. This program is made possible with public funds administered by the Chenango Arts Council, and is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature. The project was also supported by Main Street Oneonta and many private donors.

GOHS Plaque Program

GOHS has teamed with Erie Landmark Company to offer bronze and aluminum custom and specialty plaques. These include custom and standard plaques for the State and National Register of Historic Places sites. The original Walnut Street Historic District plaques are from Erie Landmark. Plaques come in various sizes, fonts and mounts, and may include photographs. Time capsules are also available.

Erie Landmark plaques are made by the Paul W. Zimmerman Foundries Company in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Information on the offerings can be found in print form at the History Center or by visiting www.ErieLandmark.com. The price is discounted on many of the plaques, if ordered through GOHS. Through this program, GOHS hopes to raise awareness of Oneonta's rich history with plaques in the Downtown Historic District and at other historic sites in the town and city.

For more information, contact Bob Brzozowski at director@oneontahistory.org or 431-9509.

Stephen Joseph Photos

Stephen Joseph's new book of photographs, Oneonta 360, is for sale at the History Center. Published by Oneonta's own Argian Press, the book of more than 80 local photos, retails for $40.00.

The original photos from the July 2008 SUNY Oneonta exhibit "Portrait of a Town: Stephen Joseph Celebrates Oneonta"remain on sale at the History Center, with part of the proceeds to benefit GOHS. (See Words & Pictures for examples of Steve's work and a link to his web site.)

That Old Time Music!

GOHS has a CD of player piano music, recorded at the History Center. The player piano in the GOHS collection is from Oneonta's GB Shearer Company. It was donated in memory of Margaret Crandell, and was restored by Dave and Tom Smith of Upright Mechanical Music of Bainbridge, with partial funding from the Jackson Fenner Foundation.

Nineteen selections were chosen for the CD from the GOHS piano roll collection. Classics such as "My Blue Heaven", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" are included as well as obscure oldies like "The Vamp", "All American Girl", and the "Husia Usia Polka".

The CD, produced by independent music and video producer Keith Rodan, is available at the History Center or by mail, and sells for $12.00 plus tax.

GOHS is currently planning a second CD of player piano. This one will feature local vocalists accompanying the piano roll tunes.

The CD is available at the History Center or by mail. For more information, call 607-432-0960 or email info@oneontahistory.org.

Harvey Baker Book on Oneonta History

In 1892 and 1893 Harvey Baker, arguably the most important presence in the history of Oneonta, penned a series of sixty-three articles on the area's history for the Oneonta Herald. GOHS has compiled the articles into a new book, Oneonta in Olden Time & Bits of Oneonta History: An Interesting Series of Articles by Harvey Baker, Published in the Oneonta Herald During the Years 1892-1893.

Harvey Baker was a prolific writer who contributed to several Otsego County papers throughout his life. His articles for the Oneonta Herald are his account of how Oneonta evolved from aboriginal lands to frontier settlements, a bustling village, and eventually to a railroading powerhouse. Based on his research of the area's history dating back to colonial times and up to the current events of his lifetime, Baker covers topics as diverse as the American Revolution and Civil War, family histories, regional folklore, local newspapers, churches and schools, Native American legends, turnpikes and canals, and local geography and ecology. His description of the development of the railroad from Albany to Binghamton is of major interest; Baker is considered by many to have single-handedly built the Albany & Susquehanna railroad. This current publication of Baker's history, compiled by GOHS, makes it widely accessible for the first time since its initial publication more than one hundred years ago.

Born in Broome County, New York in 1818, Harvey Baker became a mechanic and millwright at an early age. He began rebuilding water wheels in saw, grist, and other mills and factories. He first visited Oneonta in February 1841, when he made his first contract to put his wheels into the local mills. In addition to his mechanical skills, Baker was a gifted public speaker and lobbyist who worked for decades to bring the railroad to Oneonta. An original stockholder of the Albany & Susquehanna railroad, he also contracted to build the rail beds, bridges, and trestles, personally supervising the work between Albany and Binghamton. He later purchased and developed land near Oneonta, selling it to the Delaware & Hudson railroad for their machine shops. In community life, Baker served as Oneonta village president and town supervisor, was a charter trustee of the Oneonta Savings Bank, and owned the Howe's Cave and Lime Company. He also owned two farms and wrote extensively on farming in the Otsego Farmer. Baker died at his home in Oneonta in 1904.

"GOHS is really thrilled about the publication of this book," said GOHS Director Bob Brzozowski. "It's been a project three years in the making, and through our collaboration with Square Circle Press, we are finally seeing it come to fruition." The book reproduces the articles exactly as they were published—typographical errors, spelling variations, and all. "We felt it was important to preserve the text as published, not only to create a primary source document for researchers and historians, but also to preserve the character of an older newspaper," Brzozowski stated.

The book is laid out chronologically according to the dates the articles were published, but the table of contents is arranged according to similar subject matters, such as railroads, family histories, schools, churches, and more. "Along with the index and illustrations that will be included, we feel this will be a valuable contribution to the scholarship of upstate New York, Otsego County, and Oneonta in particular. Plus, it's just really great reading," added Brzozowski.

Click here to read excerpts from the book, which is published by Square Circle Press and retails for $22.95. Books are available at the History Center or at www.squarecirclepress.com


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