Backtracking: The Early Years: Meeting, entertainment and education venues made advances in April 1897 | Columns

Oneonta’s places to meet, be entertained or educated were experiencing some major changes during April 1897.


“It is seldom that an event attracts, so distinctively, the elite of Oneonta’s society as did the formal opening of the Oneonta club’s new home … last evening,” The Oneonta Star reported on April 24. The former club is now home to the Lewis , Hurley and Pietrobono Funeral Home at 51 Dietz St.

“There was quite a full representation of the club’s members with their families, and it was one of the most brilliant ever enjoyed by Oneontans.

“Facilities of amusement at the club were varied to such an extent that monotony was not known. While some occupied the reading room, others enjoyed the billiard and pool tables, and this spirit was by no means monopolized by the gentlemen. The large assembly hall made an excellent ball room and dancing, which was continual, proved the most attractive entertainment.” Lambert’s Orchestra furnished the music.

While the Oneonta Club thrived at their home, Star readers of April 29 learned, “Frequenters of the old Stanton opera house would fail to recognize the third and fourth floors of that block, were they to visit there.” The block once stood at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets, where 125 Main St. is now found.

“Workmen have been busily engaged for weeks transforming the same and the Masonic fraternities have now large and most attractive quarters and suitable to the demands of the organization. The stage and accessories have been removed, the gallery partitioned off and the large and stately hall repainted and papered and finished very tastily.”


While the Stanton Opera House had entertained thousands over a few decades, The Star reported on April 23, “The one institution which Oneonta needs to-day more than any other is a first-class theater or opera house, and there is a possibility within the next six months Oneonta will have such a place of which she may very well be proud.”

It happened, as Willard E. Yager and the Morris Brothers used land they’d purchased on Chestnut Street and subscribed enough capital, to build and open the Oneonta Theater in 1898.


Debate had been going on for months about where a new school for the village of Oneonta would be established. Several sites were in the running, but as readers of the April 17 Star learned, “The President of the board of education, Albert Morris, then moved that the board of education be authorized to purchase the site at the corner of Center street and Central avenue, on which to erect the proposed new building. A vote being taken on this proposition, the result as announced was, ayes, 96; nays, 93. As this vote gives the majority of three in favor of putting up the school building on the … site, the long-vexed question is now settled, and the erection of the school house will be commenced at once.”

It was reported on June 2, “Work was commenced yesterday for the new school building on Center street. It is unfortunate that the lot adjacent to the site was not purchased.”

The Oneonta educational community was saddened on April 22, when reported, “There are few persons in Oneonta identified with the younger inhabitants of the place as Miss Mary Bull, and the number of those who held her in highest respect and esteem, and will learn of her death with the deepest sorrow, is hardly less than the total population of the village.”

Miss Bull had taught at the Union School, on Academy Street for nearly 25 years. It had been a long process to get to this job.

The Star said Mary Bull was born in West Oneonta in 1851, but the family, including Professor NN Bull, moved to Binghamton, where Mary received her education and had taught for a short time on that city’s West Side.

“In the fall of 1870 her father came to Oneonta and accepted the principalship of the Academy street school. The following term Miss Bull came here, a thoroughly equipped teacher, and took charge of the primary department of the same school.

“She was promoted to preceptress of the high school department and as her position advanced she gained in popularity.”

Wednesdays: A look at our local life and times in April 1992.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday columns address local history 1950 and later. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at [email protected] His website is His columns can be found at

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Write to him at “Ask Mark,” The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at [email protected] with “Daily Star: Ask Mark” as the subject.

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