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In These Otsego Hills

August 2, 2012

History here, there and everywhere

This week we are most pleased to be able to share a picture of the old Cooperstown Union and Free School. Cooperstown native, Elena Dickison, who now resides in Milford, was kind enough to lend us this picture so we could use it in the column. We suspect there is no one still alive who remembers this structure when it was used as a school. However, since the building was not torn down until 1939, there must be those who remember the building when it was used as an apartment house.

According to the History of Cooperstown by Cooper, Shaw, Littell and Hollis, the building was built on Susquehanna Avenue in 1868 at a cost of $14,000. A $4,000 addition was added in 1881 when enrollment at the school hit a new high of 426 students, just a bit under half of the number of students at CCS today. And it must be remembered that in 1881 there were many other local schools in the area. Plus, the current school district was not centralized until 1944 when, according to the History of Cooperstown, “By a margin of 397 to 98, residents of 19 school districts in the towns of Otsego, Middlefield and Hartwick, including the Cooperstown Union and Free District, voted to form a Centralized District.” Thus we assume that the enrollment of 426 students came, for the most part, from the village itself.

The building was no longer used as a school when the new Cooperstown Union and Free School opened in January 1908 on Chestnut Street where the Cooper Lane Apartments are currently. At that time the building on Susquehanna Avenue was sold for $4,600 to W. J. Aston. We believe that the building was converted to an apartment house after that. In fact, we seem to recall having seen a picture of it with laundry hanging out to dry on the fire escape.

Then, in July 1939, the building was purchased by W. T. Sampson Smith for $1,150. Mr. Smith subsequently tore down the building and built the eight-unit housing development known as Old School Court. We hasten to point out that like the Susquehanna Avenue school building, which was razed to make way for housing, the school, which opened in 1908 on Chestnut Street was razed in 1970 to make way for the Cooper Lane Apartments.  Thus we conclude that in the village there is a pattern of using former school property for residential housing. Dare we hope that when the current elementary school, which opened in 1955 on Walnut Street, has reached the end of its usefulness as a school, it will make way for what we hope might be handicapped housing, possibly condos, for retired residents of the area?  We thank Elena for sharing her photograph and giving us a chance to use the past to muse on the future.

We also have learned more about the Pappas family which we mentioned in this column several weeks ago. We received an e-mail from Nancy Smalley of Hartwick, who was inspired to research the family online by checking the 1915 New York State Census. There she discovered that “Head of Household, George was 47 in 1915, his wife, Stamatoula, was 42. Their children: James-24, Theodore-18, Harry-15, Vassaliki-12 and Katherine-4. All but baby Katherine were born in Greece.” Nancy also noted that the length of time the various family members had been in the USA was interesting. She discovered that “... for length of presence in US, George said 12 yrs, wife 6, James 12, Theodore, Harry and Vassaliki all 7, and Katherine her whole 4 yrs. What does that tell of who came when?? The kids all came before mom, with the exception of the baby, who, obviously happened after mom finally got here!!”

We also realize that in our original column about the Pappas family and the sign in the basement at 81 Main Street, we neglected to mention that we were asked about the family and the sign by Cooperstown native, Heidi Risley, whose daughter Jenn and son-in-law Todd Howard own the building in question and in which they have recently opened a new store, Cooperstown Classics, which features fine clothing and souvenirs. We thank Heidi for contacting us with her inquiry.

And while not exactly history, we do think the article titled “Café sues Cooperstown over denial of improvements” written by Joe Mahoney for the July 21 edition of The Daily Star is worthy of thought. We must admit that when the village established the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, a group of unelected people were given a great deal of say as to what property owners may or may not do in the village. And, if we understand this correctly from our reading of the article, the current dispute centers on whether or not the questioned improvements to the All-American Café were actually alterations to the property. We gather that the items in question are in the café for the summer only and will be removed at the end of the tourist season. But, even though they do not seem to be permanent fixtures, the explanation was given that they still needed to receive a “certificate of appropriateness” from the village. We must admit that this gave us pause.

As we look at the location of the All-American café, we tend to think its relationship to the building to which it is attached is not unlike the relationship of our front porch to our house. And while the porch is part of the structure, we would be inclined to think that what we might choose to put on it is not. Yet, if the village feels it can regulate what the All-American Café uses in its outdoor space, should we be concerned that the village can also regulate what we might put in our outdoor space?

Might they be inclined to rule that plastic furniture is not in keeping with the age of our house? Would someone with a real Victorian house, which we hasten to point out ours isn’t, have to use real Victorian wicker furniture on the porch? We would certainly hope that would not be the case.

Likewise, we would like to think that those items at the All-American Café, which are being protested, would not come under the purview of the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board. Quite frankly, it is our opinion that this particular village board has more than enough power over what the taxpayers of the village, be they residential or commercial, can or cannot do. Besides, we often think they seem to be working from a romanticized vision of what Cooperstown actually looked like in its earlier years. Anyone who has seen pictures of the Cooperstown Centennial celebration in 1907 would instantly realize that Main Street as we know it today does not in anyway resemble Main Street as it looked in 1907. And to pretend that this committee is preserving the village as it used to be is ludicrous. It is time for the village to stop declaring war on its citizens and businesses and let those of us who pay heavily into the village coffers live in the 21st century. We are not, nor do we think we want to be, Deerfield or Williamsburg.

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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In These Otsego Hills
  • Thoughts on traffic and roads We recently enjoyed a brief visit from Jon Battle, one of our late husband's college buddies, who always enjoys visiting Cooperstown and passing howdy on the front porch. And while the front porch is not as welcoming as it used to be since there are no chairs on it, we were able to pass howdy from the comfort of our family room. And during the many subjects that we covered in our conversation, the topic of potholes came up.

    July 17, 2014

  • Potholes and oversights bring bumps We have received a number of comments regarding our discussion on potholes in last week’s column. And most of them were in agreement that the potholes are indeed a problem.

    July 10, 2014

  • Potholes need place on village agenda We have long thought that the concepts of perspective and priorities have the ability to present problems for people. As we are inclined to say, getting one's ducks all in a row is often difficult. And as we have learned about issues currently under consideration by the Village of Coopertown it does make us wonder about their ducks.

    July 3, 2014

  • Summer unofficially begins with ice cream Although summer officially arrived this past weekend, we have long thought that the kick off event for the summer season in Cooperstown is the annual Ice Cream Social sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church on Pioneer Street.

    June 26, 2014

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    June 19, 2014

  • Summer right for driving in the streets We have realized, having consulted our trusty calendar, that next Sunday is Father's Day. And thus this past weekend we were online looking for an appropriate printable Father's Day greeting card which we might send to the wee-we. Since we have been somewhat housebound this year, we have discovered the convenience of printable holiday cards. We used them rather successfully, we thought, when we sent them to the granddaughters for both Valentine's Day and Easter.

    June 12, 2014

  • June musings XXXXXXXX Difficult as it is to believe, it seems we have made it to June which always seems to be a fairly busy month. And this year is no different. In fact when we turned to our calendar to June we were stunned. We always hope to find we are entering a month in which we have little, if anything, planned. But when we turned to June, we quickly realized we were faced immediately with three meeting as well as four follow-up appointments with four different doctors at Bassett. And much as we would have liked to simply move right on to July, we decided that was really not an option. So we are plowing ahead with June.

    June 5, 2014

  • Presidential reading replaces viewing ince we knew we were not in a position to take in any of the festivities surrounding the president's recent visit to the Hall of Fame, we decided we needed to celebrate in another way. And, as luck would have it, we are currently reading the recently released biography, "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered." What better way, we thought, to mark the current president's visit by reading about a former president's life. It seemed perfect. Besides, it gave us a reason to spend the day with our nose in a book.

    May 29, 2014

  • Best not to push luck on spring This week we note that the Literary Discussion Group meeting, originally scheduled for today, May 22, has been postponed until Thursday, May 29 at 2:30 p.m. in the Village of Cooperstown Library. William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" will be the topic of discussion at the rescheduled meeting.

    May 22, 2014

  • Thoughts on the upcoming votes Next week, on Tuesday, May 20 voters in the Cooperstown Central School District will head to the polls to vote on three important issues, the CCS 2014-2015 budget, the election of members of the school board and a resolution for changing the funding of the two pubic libraries located within the school district, namely the Village of Cooperstown Library and the Kinney Memorial Library in Hartwick.

    May 15, 2014