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In These Otsego Hills

June 1, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: 1986 comes to a close...for now

Evidently, the fall of 1986 was the season for history questions. In fact, it seems that we asked so many that we had great trouble sorting through them all. Therefore, in order to try and make sense out of what now does not seem to make sense, we are resorting to relating the questions and answers together without regard for when they actually appeared. We can but hope it will make more sense than it seemed to make in 1986.

Question: Our curiosity was aroused by a remark made at a village board meeting referring to the old village dump at the end of South Avenue, a dump we remember being called Gruby’s Dump. We wonder if there were any other “ancient” refuse sites scattered in or about the village. Does anyone recall?

Answer: And, for our final historical note this week, Jane Frey feels that there was at least one, if not two dumps at the end of Spring Street in what is now woods. We have been exploring in that vicinity and would concur with Jane.

We even did a bit of digging in the refuse piles and unearthed several valuable artifacts in the process. Question: Charles Byrnes offers a most difficult question for Cooperstown historical scholars. “Who was known as the Great Dane from Iowa and why does this name prompt recall at the present time?” If anyone has any idea, please let us know.

Answer: Harvey and Katherine Christiansen, Fly Creek, remember the Great Dane of Iowa, the wrestler mentioned here several weeks ago, who took part in the opening of the second A.C.C. Gym. His name was George Jepsen and his family eventually settled in the Medcalf Hill area of Pierstown. We also received this information: Ellamae Hanson of Pierstown called with information on Medcalf Hill mentioned in last week’s column.

The hill was named for Abel Medcalf who originally  purchased 46 or 47 acres fromWilliam Cooper and today includes what many still refer to as the cauliflower farm. Question: Our Cooperstown historical question this week concerns Dafners Jewelry Store. Does anyone remember where this establishment was and when it was there? Please let us know.

Answer: Dafner’s Jewelry Store was located on Main Street in the Cooperstown  Theater Building. As one facesthe theater one notices that there are two small shops located on either side of the main theater entrance.

Dafner’s Jewelry Store was located in the right hand shop. Henry Dafner, who was the brother of Mrs. Bernard Carr, came to Cooperstown from Rochester and opened his store in 1931. Mr. Dafner operated his business here for several years and then returned to Rochester. We thank both Mac Preston, Elm Street, and Agnes Butler, Walnut Street, for calling to tell us of Mr. Dafner.

Question: While Agnes was talking to us about the jewelry store, she wondered if anyone has any pictures of the inside of the dance hall located at the foot of Pioneer Street in what is now Lakefront Park. We confess that we have seen pictures of the outside of the building, but we have never seen any interior views or shots of people dancing there. If such pictures exist, please let us know.

Answer: The dance pavillion at the foot of Pioneer Street was built, we believe, in 1902.

Does any reader remember when the structure was razed? Since we received no answer to that question, we wrote the following: So far we have found no specific date for the demolition of the Pavilion which stood in what is now the Lakefront Park at the foot of Pioneer Street. We have determined that the building was razed in the early 1930’s. Does that sound reasonable?

Question: Perry Hotaling, Chestnut Street, recalls that when he was growing up here there was an aged people’s home at 78 Fair Street which is located just to the north of the old paddock grounds.

At least Perry remembers that there used to be many elderly individuals sitting on the porch of 78 Fair during the warmer weather. Yet, he has never run across any reference to such an institution. Does anyone else have recollections of the place? Please let us know.

Answer: We have encountered what may be a possible answer to the question posed last week concerning the house at 78 Fair Street. From 1873 until 1916, this house was the Christ Church Charity House which was “devoted to...the good of the poor of said village” according to George E. DeMille, author of “Christ Church, Cooperstown, New York, 1810-1960.”

No doubt the residents of the charity house sat out on the porch in warm months and thus Perry Hotaling would remember them as he grew  up.Question, or perhaps morecorrectly information: On occasion we are asked to give a list of homes in the village which have names, such as Woodside Hall, Riverbrink, Lakelands, Pomeroy Place, Greencrest, Byberry Cottage, Fernleigh, Edgewater, Water’s Edge, Greystone, Averill Cottage, Crooked Cottage, Closet Hall, and Beefsteak Castle, also called Forestview. Several homes with names have been demolished, Sunnyside, the Orchards, Marcey Hall (which was located just outside the village), Holt-Averill and Rockmere are only a few of these. Neither list is offered as a complete one so if any readers are able to add to either list, please let us know.

Answer, or perhaps more correctly more information: We have added two names to the list of houses mentioned several weeks ago. Ed Whalen called to remind us that the Cooper Motor Inn was known as Willow Brook when it was a private residence. Ed also noted that his home, 46 Chestnut, is called Brookside on several of the older maps of Cooperstown.

Since these history questions seem to have a developed a life of their own, we think we must conclude with our 1986 trip for the time being. Granted there is more history from 1986 to go, but we really think it is time to take a break.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105  Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326,by telephone at 547-8124 or by email at

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