This post is about a recent visit we took to Cooperstown, NY. It was years ago (well, more like decades ago!) I used to visit the town frequently with my husband, when we lived in the area as newlyweds. Some of the children had never been here, so I wanted to take them to see quintessential small-town America.
We considered going to the Farmer’s Museum to see the Cardiff Giant, and I wanted to go to the Fenimore Art Museum, but we didn’t. The kids weren’t really up to interacting with crowds, and my youngest rolled his eyes when I suggested going to another museum. However, the Farmer’s Museum is open April 1st with reduced rates, so here’s hoping we go then.
Cooperstown was packed. We drove up and down the streets looking for a place to park. we finally found an empty spot in the marina’s parking lot. We walked to the Lakefront Park and got a look at Otsego Lake.
Here’s an interesting sculpture by John Quincy Adams Ward entitled “Indian Hunter.”
The view of the lake behind the Otesaga Hotel is beautiful. But the very cold wind blew across the lake.
It was uncomfortably cold, so we didn’t stay long. We made our way up toward the main drag. The weather was brisk and the Christmas lights were shining, and it all had a very festive air. Snowflakes drizzled down, leaving behind a flash of glitter but no depth of substance. I am not used to having such a snowless November.
Crowds of people went in and out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Local legend says that baseball was invented in the town, by Abner Doubleday, in 1836.
The Hall of Fame fuels most of Cooperstown’s economy. There were multitudes of baseball-related shops everywhere: custom-made bats, baseball card trading, baseball chocolates, posters, hats, clothing, baseball breadboxes and baseball potholders… the creativity of the entrepreneur knew no bounds when it came to capitalizing on baseball.
We strolled up and down the streets, and stopped in a store once in while to warm up before venturing on. Main Street and the surrounding streets have retained their 18th century flavor. The houses and buildings are the same as they were 200 years ago.
Little proprietor’s signs hung from local businesses as we walked. Cooperstown has gone to great lengths to retain it’s “old America” feel.
As we walked and browsed, we noticed there is a big market for remanufactured items from the 30’s to the 60’s (old road and advertising signs, old bottles, soda caps, penny candy, lanterns, enamelware, etc). It is a little disconcerting to see things you remember from your childhood on shelves as “nostalgic” items.
Outside, I happily snapped photographs while the children munched on Whistlepops from the candy store. The beautiful architecture of the buildings was very appealing. Such craftsmanship!
This lovely brownstone building caught my eye. Stone always looks so cold under the chilly glare of gloomy winter skies, but this brownstone pillar seemed to radiate good cheer.
Stairs leading to lower levels beneath storefronts mystified me. They were enigmatic. Where did they lead? How old were these doors?
Cooperstown is an ancient town, as far as New York towns go. It was settled in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, father of famed author James Fenimore Cooper. Before 1812 the town was called the village of Otsego. Cooperstown is Natty Bumppo country. My children adore the Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook stories. We have seen many versions of The Last of the Mohicans movies. (The modern one with Daniel-Day Lewis is the worst. They even changed Natty’s embarrassing name to something more palatable to Hollywood tongues: Mr. “Poe.” Listen, if you’re going to take creative license so far as to remove all semblance of the original story, name the movie something else, ok?)
I snapped more photos of some interesting and beautiful houses. Some houses are very ornate. Many have the very old look of 18th century England: low to the ground, close to the street, and clustered together with narrow alleys and stone walls, like this one:
Others are clearly Victorian and unashamed of their opulence.
The Cooperstown Library was open, so we ventured in. What a beautiful, old building! It was surprisingly warm for such a white elephant of a building. Detail work in and out was exquisite.
There’s an art gallery upstairs, so we poked around in there for a bit.
Our stroll through the town was over. Although we didn’t play the formal museum tourist group this time, it was still good to get out and enjoy a change of scenery. We drove down Railroad Street on our way out of town and came across this lonely old locomotive on the tracks. Other very old railroad cars and equipment rusted nearby. Some of the sleeping cars still had curtains and cots.
Next stop: Fly Creek Cider Mill! Stay tuned!
Project Gutenberg online has “The Story of Cooperstown” if you are interested in learning more about this enigmatic and legendary town.