News of Otsego County

greater oneonta historical society

Greater Oneonta Historical Society

GOHS builds oral history of the city in ‘Remembering Oneonta’ exhibition

Dr. Marcela Micucci

Growing up in Cooperstown in the 1960s and 70s meant looking forward to a drive down to Oneonta, shopping at Bresee’s, Woolworth’s, Barker’s, Jamesway, and others – made special by the fact that Main Street stores stayed open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Surely it was the same for others in the era, be they Oneonta residents or visitors from nearby villages – and it’s an era coming back to life through a summer-long exhibit open to the public at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s 183 Main Street headquarters.

“History is all around us here,” said Dr. Marcela Micucci, the Oneonta native appointed to become GOHS’s new director in February 2021. She made the comment after we had chatted briefly about the Woolworth’s door handles still remaining on the long-gone discount store’s front doors a few steps away at 203 Main Street.

“I just saw noticed those again on one of our guided walking tours around Oneonta,” she said. “When I was growing up here I can’t tell you how many times I used to go into ‘Building 203’ and never really noticed that detail. It’s just another example of how we live in this amazing historical space.”

Our discussion of all things Oneonta stemmed from a look at the Society’s Remembering Oneonta in the 1960s exhibition – a photographic and burgeoning oral history of the city during a decade of growth and transition. A photo display sparks memories of front-window displays and Bresee’s, students moving books to the new library at SUCO, buildings long gone or transformed, a city in transition.

“When we were envisioning what the 1960s exhibit could be, we wanted to do something different,” Dr. Micucci said. “Instead of writing a script, we could make the crux of the exhibition these oral history interviews, and they would become the script. Then it became a lot like our walking tours – kind of a nostalgic walk through Oneonta in the 1960s.”

Greater Oneonta Historical Society to unveil new exhibit at Grand Reopening

Greater Oneonta Historical Society
to unveil new exhibit at Grand Reopening

On Friday, May 13, 2022, the Greater Oneonta Historical Society (GOHS) will reopen the doors to its History Center at 183 Main Street in the heart of downtown Oneonta. The reopening follows a four-month closure for renovations to the first floor, including updates to the walls, floors, and lighting.

At the grand reopening, GOHS will unveil Small Community, Big Ideas: Greater Oneonta, a new exhibition exploring the history of the town and city of Oneonta, New York. The exhibit will include modern, interactive, and digital features and a variety of different, formerly unseen objects from GOHS’s object and archival collections.

“Small Community, Big Ideas will feature five chronological modules, each shedding light on the everyday people, places, and events that have shaped the town and city of Oneonta over the past three centuries,” Dr. Marcela Micucci, GOHS Executive Director said. “It will tell the stories of how Natives, settlers, immigrants, and residents created a community, and how they built and rebuilt Oneonta to become a destination city — one that was adaptable and evolved with the changing geography, economy, culture, and society.”

This Week – 05-05-22


The Freeman’s Journal • Hometown Oneonta

May 5, 2022


The National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed David Ortiz, a member of the Class of 2022 Hall of Fame Inductees, to the museum this week. “Only one percent of all the men who ever played Major League Baseball is honored in this Hall,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “Congratulations and welcome, Mr. Ortiz.” “This is my first time ever being here, and I have goosebumps. I’m so honored,” Mr. Ortiz said. “As a kid you dream of this, to be among the greatest players of the game. And here I am!” Left to right: Josh Rawitch, President of the Hall of Fame; Ms. Jane Forbes Clark and David Ortiz.


Community pay tribute to Bob Schlather

Senator Schumer visits Oneonta to plug job accelerator center

Inside The Paper

Greater Oneonta Historical Society to unveil new exhibit

Nelson Mondaca nominated for Culinary Student Chef of the Year

Music biz track matches science and art at SUNY Oneonta



Great Choice, Governor


POTRIKUS: The unifying power of baseball

KEVLIN: Hello from Arizona and Jim Kevlin

BERKSON: Bunnies Don’t Crow


PATTERSON: Thanks, power heroes

OWENS: Editorial Unfair!

THE WHITES: West Oneonta needs a guardrail

NORTHRUP: A constitutional right to abort


Bound Volumes: May 5, 2022


Robert B. Schlather, Esq.

Carl Lusins

Ann Lois Edwards


Happenin’ Otsego

In Memoriam David W. Brenner December 20, 1931 – March 04, 2022

In Memoriam

David W. Brenner

Dec. 20, 1931 – Mar. 04, 2022

David W. Brenner

ONEONTA – David W. Brenner, 90, passed away March 4, 2022 at Cooperstown Center Rehabilitation and Nursing Home.

David was born December 20, 1931 in Blooming Grove, NY, the son of Lee D. and Henrietta (Maxwell) Brenner.  He was the oldest of 10 children.  The family lived in various towns in and around Newburgh NY.

David Graduated from Washingtonville High School in 1949.  In 1950 he enlisted in the United States Army, achieving the rank of 1st Lieutenant.  His assignments included Germany and several posts in the United States. He was honorably discharged in 1954 at the completion of his service.

David married Lois I. Erickson on September 5, 1954 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn NY.

Following their marriage, they moved to Oneonta so that David could attend SUNY Oneonta on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1957 and achieving a master’s degree in 1959.  After graduating college, he taught at Schenevus Central School and at Clarkstown Central School in New City, NY.  He then returned to SUNY Oneonta as Student Teacher Supervisor, before becoming Director of Registration and Records, and eventually Associate Dean of Students, retiring after 35 plus years.  During his time at SUCO, David was very proud to have received his Ph.D. from SUNY Albany School of Public Affairs.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Cooperstown Decorates Main Street 11-21-21

Cooperstown Decorates Main Street


CHRISTMAS – Be an Angel. Sign up to give the gift of Christmas to local families in need with this years Angel Tree Program. Visit for details.

DECORATING – 2 p.m. Join the Cooperstown Christmas Committee to help decorate Santa’s cottage and the village lampposts for the holidays. Decorations provided, bring gloves and ladders if available. Meet at Pioneer Park, Cooperstown. E-mail to reserve a pole.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Benefit Auction for Oneonta Historical Society 11-19-21

Benefit Auction for
Oneonta Historical Society


CHRISTMAS – Be an Angel. Sign up to give the gift of Christmas to local families in need with this years Angel Tree Program. Visit for details.

BENEFIT AUCTION – 5:30 – 8 p.m. Come out for 15th annual auction for the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. Find cool items to bid on with auctioneer Kevin Herrick, and support this local historical society. Quality Inn, 5206 St. Hwy. 23, Oneonta. 607-432-0960 or visit

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Retirement Celebration 10-19-21

Retirement Celebration


RETIREMENT RECEPTION – 6 – 8 p.m. Celebrate the 20 year tenure and recent retirement of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s Executive Director Bob Brzowski. Refreshments, cake will be served. A cash bar will be available. Covid safety protocols will be followed. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-432-0960 or visit

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Oneonta History Soceity to hold annual dinner 10-14-21

Oneonta History Society
to hold annual dinner


ANNUAL DINNER – 5:30 p.m. Fundraising dinner with the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. Celebrate their accomplishments and raise money for the future. Cost, $55/non-member. Hosted at Toscana Northern Italian Grill, 76 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-432-0960 or visit

Musket Donations Find Home At Greater Oneonta Historical Society

Musket Donations Find Home At
Greater Oneonta Historical Society

By GREG KLEIN • Special to

Fred Hickein signs his heirloom muskets over to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society on Wednesday, April 21, as his wife, Eleanor, and from left, Wayne Gregory, Terry Harkenreader and George Sluti, from Oneonta American Legion Post 259, look on.

Fred Hickein wanted to make sure his heirloom muskets stayed in good hands, so the 93-year-old Oneonta resident made a major donation to the Greater Historical Society of Oneonta on Wednesday, April 21.

Hickein and his wife, Eleanor, and several of his colleagues from the Oneonta American Legion Post 259, presented GOHS with two family treasures Wednesday,: an English smooth bore rifle, circa 1800, which Hickein believes was brought to the area by an ancestor of his, Solomon Yager; and a Civil War training musket owned and used by another relative, Edward Brewer.

An Oneonta High School and Hartwick College graduate and a Navy veteran, who served in both World War II and Korea, although never overseas or at sea, Hickein said he wanted the heirlooms to be in good hands and he trusted GOHS to honor his family’s history.

“I wanted to do it before I died,” he said. “I wanted to make sure they were in a good place.”

GOHS Executive Director Marcela Micucci said the group’s history center at 181 Main St. will soon have a permanent display and it will include one or both of the musket donations.

Bresee’s Santa Lives

Bresee’s Santa Lives

Restored Five Years Ago, Jolly Elf
Reclaims His Stature In Downtown

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Elaine Bresee adjusts Santa’s hat at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, where he is on display, much like he used to be in the windows of Bresee’s and, later, in front of Marc and Elaine’s Milford Center home. (Ian/

Even Santa Claus sometimes needs a little work done.

For the past five years, he’s been a Christmas Time treat at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, but for many years after Bresee’s Department Store closed down in the 1990s, he was out of the public eye.

“He had been in our warehouse, and we rescued him,” said Elaine Bresee, Milford Center, whose husband Marc was one of the last family members to manage the namesake downtown Oneonta department store.

Elaine shows off the pants from the store’s original Santa costume. (Ian Austin/

“We had him outside in our sleigh every year,” said Elaine, but as the years went by, the wintry weather took its toll on the 1930s fixture, which was a centerpiece of the department store’s holiday decorations for decades.

“He was starting to get pretty trashed,” she said. “His fingers had broken off, and he was starting to fade.”

So in 2013, the couple had him repaired, and in 2015 donated the figure to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, where it has once again become part of downtown shoppers’ Christmas expectations.

The restoration was done by Marjean McCaslin-Doyle, the costume shop manager in SUNY Oneonta’s Theatre Department, and it was a challenge.

“Someone had tried to curl his beard at one point,” she said. “But it’s synthetic hair, so it had gotten singed.”

She bought him a new mustache and gently cleaned and restored the original beard.

His hand-tied wig also needed restoration, and worse, no longer hid the holes in his head. “I had to fill, paint and seal the scalp,” she said.

His lips were similarly deteriorated, with holes between the beard and mustache.

“The face was in the worst condition,” she said. “The rose in his cheeks had been rubbed off, and there was a lot of effort in trying to match the original colors.”

She ordered a set of plaster mannequin hands, but also made a cast of one hand. It came out so well, she doesn’t remember which hand is bought and which one she made.

“It took two years, but she restored him,” said Elaine. “She was so careful in ordering just the right hands so that they matched the rest of him.”

His costume – one of the two original Bresee’s Santa suits – was restored by Kathleen Moore, one of Marjean’s colleagues in SUNY’s costume department.

“The collar and the cuffs are real rabbit fur,” she said. “And the suit is very heavy wool, not like the material they use now. It’s amazingly made – it wouldn’t have lasted this long otherwise.”

Once restored, the Bresees donated the plaster Santa – as well as the Santa Chair and the mailbox – to GOHS in 2015.

“Letters in the mailbox were always answered for the longest time,” said Marc Bresee. “There would be about 75-100 of them, but then when people started really coming, we couldn’t answer them all.”

Instead, Marc said, each visiting child was given a candy cane and a coloring book, with a promise that Santa would read the letter.

Even now, a letter still shows up on occasion. “This one says, ‘I would like robots, please!’” said Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director. “But I don’t know who sent it!”

And Santa can’t sit in an ordinary chair, but instead, sits on the Bresee’s Santa Chair, which was made by the store’s in-house carpenters for the Jolly Old Elf to meet with visitors.

“We toyed with donating these for about five years,” she said. “I always have trouble parting with things from the store.”

But they haven’t parted with all of the store’s Santa ephemera yet.

Bresee’s kept two suits, as well as a wig and beard on hand, so that one could be sent for cleaning while the other was being worn – including by Bresee’s most famous Santa, Clark Chaplin.

“Of course, Clark always had his own beard,” she said.

Marc wore the suit to dress up for his children when they were kids, and for his father, Phillip, when he was at the Thanksgiving Home.

“They were having cocktail hour one Thursday, and in he came in the full suit!” he said. “They were all very happy to see me.

In 2019, the Bresee’s loaned the second suit for Orpheus Theatre’s production of “Elf.”

Santa’s sleigh – also a decoration from Bresee’s – has returned to the couple’s porch, with two former store mannequins, a boy and a girl, dressed in cozy red pajamas as they wave to passerbys.

And a new Santa is there too. “He’s not as beautiful as the other one,” said Elaine. “But another one will come along.”

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Benefit Auction For Oneonta History Center 11-15-20

Benefit Auction For

Oneonta History Center


GOHS BENEFIT AUCTION – Noon. The Greater Oneonta 14th annual auction goes online at continues to 5 p.m. 11/21. Find art, antiques, furniture, gift cards, more available. Many items on view at the Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., Oneonta. 607-432-0960 for info or visit to view items.

ANGEL TREE PROGRAM – Give the Gift of Christmas this holiday season. Adopt a family in need. Visit to learn how.

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103