Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Route 20 Mystique To Inspire 10 Books


Michael J. Till grew up in Independence, Iowa, and Route 20 in front of his house was the stuff of his boyhood daydreams, spanning the nation as it does, from Boston’s Kenmore Square to Newport, Ore.
His future wife, Christine, was from Pittsburgh, and when married the young couple used to drive Route 20 from Minneapolis east to visit her family.
As Dr. Till’s career in pediatric dentistry led him into academe – he was dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Dentistry for years – he and Christine, on getaway vacations, travelled Route 20’s whole 3,365 miles.
Retired, the Tills decided on a plan to immortalize their beloved Route 20 – in truth, it’s loved by many – by capturing it on the printed page.
The first result of their effort – nine more volumes are planned – is “Along New York’s Route 20,” just published by Arcadia.
The Tills were at the Richfield Springs Historical Society Saturday, May 14, chatting about their project and signing copies.
Contrary to Route 66, which has been largely absorbed into the Interstate Highway System, on Route 20 “the original highway is still 90 percent intact,” Till said.
Route 20 actually goes through 12 states, the authors said, but that includes only about 20 miles of Pennsylvania and about the same of Montana, not enough for a stand-alone volume.
The couple chose New York first because more postcards have recorded this stretch than any of the others, John Sagendorf of the state’s Highway 20 Association encouraged them, and because of its historical routes.
In Otsego County, it includes both the historic Cherry Valley Turnpike and the beginnings of the Great Western Turnpike, two storied roads.  “We wanted to capitalize on that,” Till said.
The Massachusetts volume is nearly complete, and Ohio is half-done, so the project is gaining momentum.
In their travels and through their research, the Tills have collected page upon page of Route 20 lore. 

Here are just a few examples, not to ruin the anticipation:
• The “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, where Joe “Say It Ain’t So” Jackson helped fix the World Series, was hatched in Boston’s Hotel Buckminster, right on Kenmore Square.
• Samuel B. Morse developed the first working telegraph machine in 1837 in Cherry Valley, right on the future Route 20 (before the four-lane shifted the route a mile north), and he returned to C-V in 1844 to establish the first telegraph office.
• Route 20 cross four presidents’ hometowns:  Millard Fillmore, East Aurora; James Garfield, Mentor, Ohio; Rutherford B. Hayes, Fremont, Ohio, and U.S. Grant, Galena, Ill.
• A stone obelisk in Sioux City, Iowa, memorializes Sgt. Charles Floyd, the only member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition to die en route, (of “bilious colic,” now thought to be a ruptured appendix.)

And much, much more.  But see for yourself.  “Along New York’s Route 20” is available at The Tepee, that Route 20 landmark just this side of Sharon Springs, the Richfield Springs Historical Society, and on

Vitch Committal


A committal service for Norma I. Vitch, 92, who passed away on Dec. 10, 2010, will be at 4 p.m. Friday, May 20, in the Evergreen Cemetery, Otego, with Rev. Teressa Sivers, officiating.
Arrangements are by the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home.

Bridger Interment


The graveside service of committal and burial for Mrs. Rosalina “Rosie” M. (Pugliese) Bridger, 86, who died Jan. 8, 2011, will be offered at 1 p.m. on  Monday,  May 23, 2011, at Hartwick Seminary Cemetery.  Arrangements are under the guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home.


Milford’s Bob Harrington smartly drives Tim and Tom at the 18th annual Plow Days Saturday-Sunday, May 7-8, at Don and Donna Decker’s Deckerdale Farm in South Hartwick.   The Deckers organized what Donna calls “The No-Name Gang” almost two decades ago.  “I’m the only boss they’ve got,” she said, referring to the draft-horse aficionados that gather annually.  “No president.  No money.”  A harvest weekend is planned at the end of September.  Don Decker’s father, Mortimer, was one of the last farmers in that area to stop farming with horses, in the late 1950s.  Their sons, Don Jr., David and Dennis, aren’t farmers, but in the next few days planned to help their parents, using the horses, plant 350 pounds of potatoes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The War Between The Poets

CGP student Julie Broadbent conceived of a “poetry blast” to recollect the Civil War.
When most people think about the Civil War, they think of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves.  It’s a topic that’s been heavily researched, written about and the subject of movies such as “Glory,” “Gods and Generals,” and “Gettysburg.”
For Cooperstown Museum Studies graduate student Julie Broadbent, it’s best represented in poetry.
While browsing through the archives at the New York State Historical Association, she found an anonymous poem, written about a Southern woman living in Ohio during Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s attack.  The woman is torn between her Southern heritage and her Ohio upbringing as she tends to the wounded from both sides.
 “It was an extremely personal conflict,” Broadbent explained.  “She saw both sides as human, and she wanted to heal them all and send them home.”
She will be reading that poem at the “War Between the Poets” poetry slam, at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 14, held at the NYSHA library.
The poetry slam will feature original poetry as well as classics from such poets as Walt Whitman.  All members of the community are invited to participate.  The slam will showcase the performance, rather than the straight reading, of these poems, and performances are limited to four minutes.  The poem must utilize a documented source, costumes are encouraged and the five judges will be picked out of the audience to rate each performance on a 1-10 scale, dropping the highest and lowest scores.  In the event of a tie, the audience will decide on the winner, and prizes will be given..
But why the Civil War?
“The Civil War touches on issues that are still very prevalent today – race, economics and class conflict,” Broadbent said.  “As manufacturing jobs started disappearing, there was a depression, a sense of “what comes next?” 
Of course, race was and still is an issue, and the abolishment of slavery was a huge upheaval to the African American community, allowing them more resources to make their own social stratus – of course, Jim Crow laws immediately tightened this freedom after Reconstruction.”
“There is still a conflict,” Broadbent said.  “There are still huge inequalities and still tensions.”
In addition, gender roles were redefined in the Civil War.  As men went to war, women had to take over as farmers, and the classic images of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton as nursemaids to the wounded help change the landscape of nursing as a predominantly male career into the “feminized” industry it is today.  And with so many soldiers not coming home, women were either widowed or didn’t marry.
It’s been 150 years since the start of the Civil War, but for Julie Broadbent, a single anonymous poem brought it all home.  The “War Between the Poets” poetry slam is to raise awareness of this anniversary, as New York state isn’t having an formal reflections or celebrations.  “I want to bring these issues – race, gender, class and economics – to the forefront,” she said.
For complete rules or more information, please contact Julie Broadbent at

Corning’s Project Blazes Trail For Oneonta’s Bresee’s

What Is... Will Be

Corning’s Connors Block, Cedar and East Market streets, was the first building renovated for first-floor stores and apartments upstairs.  It opened in 2001.

With Grants, Credits, Revised Building Codes, Restorations Make ‘Financial Sense’ Again


A big reception was in the works.  Corning Inc. President/CEO Jamie Houghton had sponsored it.  The plan was to introduce the Connors Block as site of Corning’s first experiment to return housing to the downtown’s upstairs.
Then a big, thick beam in the roof collapsed.  Water poured into the premises below.
“There was a ton of water” – yes, an actual ton – “between the ceiling and the roof,” architect Elise Johnson-Schmidt reported discovering.
The mishap didn’t discourage the developers.  In fact, the event underscored Johnson-Schmidt’s thesis:  Downtown buildings are often in need of expensive repair; if the upstairs floors can’t be used to enhance the revenue stream, demolition becomes the most cost-effective option.
This story had a happy ending.  In 2001, a renovated Connors Block reopened for stores and apartments.  A decade later, 41 apartments have been created in the formerly vacant upstairs of Market Street buildings, with more on the way.
And a new chapter is about to open for Johnson-Schmidt & Associates, Architects which is partnering with Corning’s Klugo Enterprises in renovating the former Bresee’s Department Store in downtown Oneonta and 1 Deitz St., the yellow-brick building around the corner.
Johnson-Schmidt has also made an appearance in Cooperstown in recent months, speaking at Otsego 2000’s Nov. 16 seminar on reviving housing on Main Street’s upper stories.  The Planning Board in April referred the initial revisions to the village code to the trustees.
“I was so excited I could hardly contain myself,” said Johnson-Schmidt, still elated by news of the Bresee’s contract.
She was being interviewed in the second-floor conference room of Johnson-Schmidt Associates at 15 East Market St., which – walking the walk after talking the talk – she purchased and renovated into two stores and one apartment – rented for $1,500 a month to an engineer in the gas-drilling business.
Plus, her architectural firm, three stories on the back of the building, entered from the parking lot that separates the structure from the Chemung River.  Her office is on the third floor, rear; she’s partial to the northern light.
“She sees what it used to be in its prime,” architect David Anderson said of his boss.  “And she sees what it’s going to be.  She doesn’t see the dirt and the decay.”
The Bresee’s plan, announced Tuesday, May 3, in Oneonta City Hall, would create commercial space on the first floor, and five two-bedroom apartments and 10 one-bedroom apartments above. 
The recent demolition of the back end of the building will provide tenants’ parking, and additional parking for downtown shoppers, as well as picnic tables and open space.
While revisions in the state code do not require an elevator (a $100,000 expense), Klugo and Johnson-Schmidt plan to install one anyhow as part of the marketing plan – tenants will be able to pull up to the entrance and unload their cars by the elevator.
“You have plenty of student housing in Oneonta,” Johnson-Schmidt said.  “The preference would be to offer a different housing opportunity, for professionals, for people who are retiring, for young professionals.”
Construction is due to begin Jan. 1, and Johnson-Schmidt anticipates people will be moving in 16-18 months from today.
As it happens, the Bresee’s partner was perhaps the foremost reason such rehabilitations are possible.
A Painted Post native and Cornell graduate with a master’s in its historic-preservation planning program, and after a career in Europe and New York, Johnson-Schmidt returned to Corning in 1990 as executive director of its Market Street Restoration Agency.
While helping create the 600-building Southside Historic District and enabling 150 facade improvement projects, in 1996 she began lobbying for changes in the state building code to allow redevelopment of upper stories.
The changes – substituting sprinklers for a second egress, for instance – are in place.  A second piece, New Markets Historic Tax credits – 39 percent – were enacted by Congress in 2000.  A third, Restore New York grants that have been used to prepare Bresee’s for redevelopment, were created in the Spitzer Administration.
“Now, finally,” said Johnson-Schmidt, “there was money for people to actually rehabilitate buildings and have it make financial sense.”
Regarding Bresee’s – the planning began in Mayor John Nader’s administration – Oneonta has “been looking at the right pieces,” she continued.  And, she added, Bresee’s can be just the beginning.