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greater oneonta historical society

Historians Say Literary Mecca Out Of Danger
Philo Vance Home Safe For Now

Historians Say Literary

Mecca Out Of Danger

By LIBBY CUDMORE• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The novel couldn’t have been written in the cupola: There’s only 3 feet of headroom. (Ian Austin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA & The Freeman’s Journal)

The River Street birthplace of detective Philo Vance may still be saved.

On Monday, June 10, Bob Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society executive director, went through the 31 River St. home where William Huntington Wright – aka S.S. Van Dyne – wrote parts of his debut novel, “A Man of Promise.” Later, while recovering from a cocaine addiction, is believed to have written his first detective novel, “The Benson Murder Case,” a best-seller and the first of a dozen novels featuring dandy detective Philo Vance.

The house, owned by his maiden aunts Bertha and Julia Wright, was sold to the Salvation Army earlier this spring for $90,000. The original intent was to demolish it for a parking lot and, eventually, a new building for expanded programming, including the food pantry.

But when word of the home’s literary history got to Brzozowski, he began researching ways to save it. He arranged a tour with the Salvation Army, who took him around the grounds and through the house.
“Right away, we noticed that the entire house was dry, even though the weekend had been very rainy,” said Brzozowski. “Though obviously, there are other issues.”

At some point, the residence was chopped into apartments, but strangely. “There are two kitchens right beside each other,” said Brzozowski. “There’s one living space on the first floor and two on the second.”

Though no furniture was left, Brzozowski did find some “knick-knacks,” including a 1966 newspaper, a WWII-era canvas pouch in a tin box in the basement and a couple of “really interesting lamps.”
“There could have been stuff there that belonged to the Wright family, but it would be hard to detect,” he said.

But perhaps the biggest revelation of all is that the cupola, where legend had it that Wright did all of his writing, wasn’t big enough to accommodate the writer – or anyone.

“It’s maybe three feet from floor to ceiling,” he said. “It’s not like a room. He couldn’t even sit in here.”

There is, however, a garret on the second floor south side of the house. “I could imagine a writer working in there.”

Emphemera Abounds, And Much More

Emphemera Abounds, And Much More

Wife Barbara tends their booth while Will Monie of Willis Monie Books, Cooperstown, left, takes a break to examine GOHS Executive Director
Bob Brzozowski’s offerings during the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s 15th annual Postcard, Book & Ephemera Show & Sale Saturday, April 13,
at Elm Park Methodist Church in Oneonta. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Historian To City: Repair Scatchard Monument

ONEONTAN DIED CENTURY AGO

Historian: Repair Statue

Honoring WWI Heroine

Historian Robert Calendresa points to a slide of the Ethel Scatchard Memorial in Neahwa Park this afternoon during a lecture on her life, sponsored by the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. Scatchard, an Oneonta native, died of pneumonia on Feb. 11, 1919, at age 32 in Paris, where she was working at a Red Cross Canteen. As part of the talk, he urged the city to put aside funds to fix the monument, which has fallen into disrepair. “We owe this to Ethel,” he said. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
I’d Buy That For a Dollar!

‘I’d Buy That 

For A Dollar!’

Historical Advertising Focus

Of Newest GOHS Exhibit

Tom Heitz, local historian and volunteer at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society shows off some of the scores of historical advertisements on display at GOHS’s newest exhibit Oneonta Commercial Advertising: From the 1850’s to the New Millennium. The exhibit pulled from a collection of nearly 700 ads from the archives of the Oneonta Herald and other local papers from The Fenimore Art Museum microfilm collection. “We all sat down and went through them to pick out what we thought were the best ones.” said Heitz. The exhibit is presented in chronological order so trends in advertising can be seen through the decades. A reception will be held 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 at GOHS. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Oneonta Photographers Exhibit On Display At City Hall

Oneonta Photography Exhibit

Now On Display At City Hall

Wayne Wright, the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s, shows off a two-lens stereoscopic camera that is featured in three panels from the “Oneonta Photographers, 1850-1900” he staged for GOHS during the fall now being installed in the City Hall lobby. The show features work from William Mereness, Perry Young and Howard N. Smith, who took some of the earliest images of Oneonta. At right, Wright shows Mayor Gary Herzig a stereoscope of the D&H rail yards. Stereoscopes, photographs, cameras and other ephemera will be on display through the end of March. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Slot Machine Stirs Up Bidding War At Auction

Slot Machine Stirs Up

Bidding War At Auction

Volunteers Taylor Knox, a SUNY Oneonta senior, and Brenda Korthauer, above, cheer as a slot machine, donated by Marc and Elaine Bresee, delivers a jingling prize, setting off a bidding war at this evening’s Benefit Auction, the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s major annual fundraiser.  Inset right, Alan Michael Rubin, attending the event at the Qualilty Inn with dad Al and mom Michelle, signals his $560 bid and wins the apparatus, all for the good cause. Other items up for auction included a weekend getaway at a Lake George camp and a lamp with a stained-glass shade, courtesy of stained-glass artist Doug Halberg.  After a 10-year hiatus, Kevin Herrick of Lettis Auctions, who has rejoined the GOHS board, was the auctioneer. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8

Glimmerglass Film Days

Opening Night Party

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OPENING NIGHT PARTY – 8 – 10 p.m. Traditional opening night bash for Glimmerglass film days. Features buffet, complimentary beverage, cash bar, chance to meet artists, filmmakers. Enjoy video, sculpture exhibit by Ted Lott and Yeon Jin Kim. The Smithy, Cooperstown. 607-547-8881 or visit www.glimmerglassfilmdays.org/films-events-01/opening-night-party-and-companion-exhibition

VISITING WRITERS – 7 p.m. Kick off writers series with fiction writer Stephanie King, interim coordinator of Hartwick’s Writing Center, award winning author. Celebration Room, Shineman Chapel House, Hartwick College, Oneonta. 607-431-4921 or visit www.hartwick.edu/news/stephanie-king-kicks-off-hartwicks-2018-19-visiting-writers-series/

Fifth History Center Mural Unveiled, Completing Cycle

Fifth History Center Mural

Unveiled, Completing Cycle

Young Felix Palmer of Cooperstown mimics the pose he took for the photo that became the basis of the fifth of five murals for the Dietz Street side of the Oneonta History Center, unveiled this afternoon. The photo was taken when he was 7; next week, he turns 13. Also depicted in the mural are Felix’ mom, Angelica, and Gary Aney, Jordanville, a Farmers’ Museum docent who appears as David Wilber himself.   The mural’s subject is Wilber National Bank, one of the History Center building’s occupants over the 150-year history of the first brick building in Oneonta’s downtown. At left is artist Carol Mandigo, who created the murals with the help of a NYSCA grant under the sponsorship of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.  Murals already completed are of Laskaris’ candy store, Gallin’s Jewelry, Brown Hardware and Joann Dress Shop.  Wilber National Bank merged into Community Bank five years ago,  (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28

Fall Run Through Cooperstown

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COOP LOOP RACE – 1 – 3 p.m. 5K & 10K race of moderate difficulty through scenic Cooperstown. Includes costume contests. Cost, $25/adult for 10K race. Begins & Ends at Clark Sports Center, Cooperstown. 607-547-2800, ext. 111 or visit www.facebook.com/clarksportscenter

TASTE OF FOOTHILLS – 5:30 p.m. Enjoy dinner from local vendors followed by show featuring ‘extraordanist’ Craig Karges. Cost, $20/person. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-431-2080 or visit www.eventbrite.com/e/experience-the-extraordinary-w-craig-karges-foothills-annual-fundraiser-tickets-48071305569

Final Mural’s Unveiling Due At Oneonta History Center

Final Mural’s Unveiling Due

At Oneonta History Center

AllOTSEGO.com Managing Editor Libby Cudmore and photographer Ian Austin were models for Brown’s Hardware. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

ONEONTA – Wilber Bank, the last of the Dietz Street murals depicting the five historic occupants of the Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.

Wilber Bank’s first location in Oneonta was in the southwest corner of the first floor of Walter  Brown’s hardware store in the building now owned by the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. After a fire in David Wilber’s bank in Milford, his friend Walter Brown offered space in his business.

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