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News of Otsego County

restoration

City Hall Seeks $500,000 To Redo Oneonta Theatre

City Hall Seeks $500,000

To Redo Oneonta Theatre

By CHRYSTAL SAVAGE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The Oneonta Theatre has been on the market for five years.

City Hall will seek $500,000 in state funding to restore the Oneonta Theatre, the former movie house at 27 Chestnut St. that has been on the market and unused for five years.

Mayor Gary Herzig received Common Council’s unanimous approval Tuesday, Jan. 5, to seek the money through the state’s Main Street Anchor Program aimed at restoring vacant buildings.

While there is no time-frame for approval or construction, Herzig said the priority is stabilizing the building.

“The theater is not only beautiful and vintage, it is a glorious piece of Oneonta’s history,” he said. “If the building could not be restored, it would be a loss that would never be recovered.”

Plans for the restorations would include maintaining the building as a theater. “It would be a place to have a variety of performances, including live stage and film productions within the community,” Herzig said.

He added, “It would increase the quality of life of our residents and also provide an asset and attraction to visit and possibly even relocate to the area.”

“We’re off to the races,” Herzig said as the motion passed.

He plans to complete the application prior to the Jan. 15 deadline. While there is no time-frame for approval or construction, Herzig said the priority is stabilizing the building.

“The theater is not only beautiful and vintage, it is a glorious piece of Oneonta’s history,” he said. “If the building could not be restored, it would be a loss that would never be recovered.”

Plans for the restorations would include maintaining the building as a theater. “It would be a place to have a variety of performances, including live stage and film productions within the community,” Herzig said.

He added, “It would increase the quality of life of our residents and also provide an asset and attraction to visit and possibly even relocate to the area.”

“We’re off to the races,” Herzig said as the motion passed.

He plans to complete the application prior to the Jan. 15 deadline.

‘Mary’s Plan’ Mailed To President Macron’s Desk
GOAL: FIX NOTRE DAME de PARIS

‘Mary’s Plan’ Mailed

To President Macron’s Desk

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Jim Belleau and his plans for Notre Dame.

By the time you read this, “Mary’s Plan” for the redevelopment of Notre Dame de Paris may be on the desk of France’s president, Emmanuel Macron.
“We’re going to print this plan on beautiful paper and send it directly to the palace” – the Palais de l’Élysée – “with beautiful photos,” said Jim Belleau, as he prepared to mail the material earlier this week; it is also being sent via email.

Packets are also en route to the Pope, and to the French Ministry of Culture, said Belleau, owner of Principally Prints, the Chestnut Street framing shop.

In his view, the Oneonta-born plan will come to Macron’s view at the optimal time: “The cathedral is gutted, ready to be repaired.”

The iconic cathedral was damaged by fire on April 15, 2019, its wooden roof trusses burned and the upper part of the cathedral’s walls weakened.

Belleau, who is spiritually inclined, said he’d pledged a life of service to St. Mary during a visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine during a 2017 trip to France.

A year ago, it came to him: He was being called to design “Mary’s Plan” for the cathedral as a result of that pledge.

By summer, the plan had taken shape.

“The primary element is the pyramid, planned on top of the crucifix of the roof of the cathedral,” he said, noting that all cathedral roofs are cross-shaped.

The pyramid – as well as new spires on the bell towers – would likely be made of a form of plexiglass, milled to the color of the Parisian sky at noontime, and the Smart Lighting would maintain that color throughout 24 hours.

“Thus, Mary’s blue will become the beacon of the 21st century,” he said.

I.M. Pei’s pyramid is nearby at the Louvre, and the similar concepts will reinforce each other.

An artist’s rendering shows Jim Belleau’s plan for Notre Dame’s roof and spires, above, compared with the room before the April 15, 2019, fire.

The Oneonta plan only focuses on the roof and spires.

 

A multi-billion dollar plan for the complete renovation of the Medieval cathedral, built in 1163-1345, was approved by Macron on July 9.

In 2008, Belleau had written a book on Bob Marley,
and in August he reached out to Junior Marvin, lead guitarist for The Whalers, Marley’s band, for guidance on publicizing the effort.

Marvin arranged for him to meet Jonathan Silver of Cumulus Media in New York City, which designed the “Mary’s Plan” Facebook page and accompanying website.

“We’re getting a strong reaction in Paris,” Belleau said, which he welcomes: It puts the concept in the public eye.

From his experience at Lourdes, Belleau had concluded the world, to date, has been “oppositive – good, bad; tall, short; beginning, ending. Duality is a tough game to play; it’s a difficulty way to live life.”

His understanding of Mary’s message, he said, is to escape that duality. Faced with conflict, adherents should step back and find the middle way that suits them best.

For the time being, Belleau is seeking to publicize Mary’s Plan to the degree he can, seeking media outlets here and in Europe.

“I want to expose as many people to this event as possible so the people who feel the importance of this can really get behind it,” he said.

If it’s meant to happen, it will, he says philosophically.

“This is not between me and the world,” he said, “but between Mary and the world.”

Bresee’s Santa Lives

Bresee’s Santa Lives

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

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

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/AllOTSEGO.com)

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/AllOTSEGO.com)

“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.”

‘Garden’ Window Installed In New Methodist Church

‘Garden’ Window Installed

In New Methodist Church

Pastor Sylvia Barrett preaches in front of the newly restored stained glass window depicting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane that was installed this week in the Milford United Methodist Church. The window, which was unveiled before the congregation this morning, had been recused from the remains of the former church when it was consumed by fire earlier this year. Since then it has been undergoing extensive restorations by stained glass artisan Doug Hallberg, Oneonta, who dismantled, cleaned repaired and rebuilt the piece. For full story, read this week’s Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands this Wednesday! (Ian Austin/AllOSEGO.com)

 

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