The National Baseball Hall of Fame is one of three first-class museums located in this small town.
By Earlene Youker
Cooperstown, New York “” population 2,000 or so “” lies deep in a valley among the rolling hills of the Catskill Mountains. In October, when the sun’s rays slant through colorful leaves, strolling down tree-lined streets is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. You won’t find any fast-food places “” just good food and great atmosphere. There are many historic buildings in Cooperstown, and that is by design rather than accident. The folks who live here appreciate the historic significance of the many period homes, and they know that the mid-19th-century ambience welcomes visitors year after year.
Cooperstown bills itself as the “Village of Museums.” The most famous here, of course, is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, located on Main Street. The men who founded it, all from different states, agreed that Cooperstown was the place where baseball began. Since the museum was dedicated in 1939, it has become the home of memorabilia from some of the most famous men ever to play the game, such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle. You’ll see bats, gloves, and other equipment associated with baseball throughout the museum.
The entire game is explored here, as you might expect. Women of baseball and the history of the Negro Leagues are included. Baseball cards, baseball movies, game equipment, and stories that deserve to be retold are revealed. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves history, even those who are not necessarily baseball fans. The hall of fame induction weekend at the end of July each year marks the busiest time in Cooperstown. Visitors come from all over the world to be there. Be prepared to stay the whole weekend if you come, because state parks and campgrounds require three-day reservations at that time.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. between Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend, with longer hours in summer. Admission is free for active military, retired career military, and children under 7; $5 for children ages 7 to 12; $9.50 for seniors; and $14.50 for adults. Call (888) 425-5633 for more information or check out its Web site at www.baseballhalloffame.org.
You also can buy combination admission tickets at a reduced rate that provide entry to not only the Baseball Hall of Fame but also the Farmers’ Museum and Fenimore Art Museum.
The Farmers’ Museum takes you back in time to the mid-19th century. The museum features a village complete with a school, church, general store, pharmacy, and, of course, a farm. Volunteers in period costumes tell visitors how the jobs were done back then. The blacksmith is happy to show you how he made farm implements and fixed broken wagon wheels and other items that were necessary to people of that time. The pharmacist will tell you about the plants in the garden outside his house that were used to make medicine to heal ills. Stop by and see the Cardiff Giant, too, a stone statue of a huge man that became part of one of the most famous hoaxes of its time.
The main barn where you enter the Farmers’ Museum has exhibits of tools used to help folks through the chores they faced each day. Spinning wheels and looms that were used to make fabric for clothing are displayed along with buggies, plows, and other heavier implements.
The Farmers’ Museum is open April through October; hours vary, but during the summer months it is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. From October 10 through 31, hours are 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Call (888) 547-1450 or visit www.farmersmuseum.org for details. A special Halloween event is an evening tour on October 20, 21, and 27, 2006, that takes visitors through the village and includes tales of ghostly happenings here and around the region.
If you love art, another museum that should be on your “do not miss” list is the Fenimore Art Museum and the American Indian Wing. This is the home of The New York State Historical Association. It houses an exhibition of the Coopers of Cooperstown among others. It starts with William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown. He was a land speculator who built his wealth after the American Revolution. William’s sixth son, James Fenimore Cooper, is known for writing The Deerslayer and The Last of The Mohicans, among other novels.
The Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art is housed in its own wing in the Fenimore House. It includes a Mohawk Bark House, which is a reproduction of a late-18th-century Iroquois hunting lodge, and many beautiful masks, baskets, and other crafts done by American Indians. The American fine art collection includes portraits of some of New York’s colorful historical figures, among them Robert Fulton. American folk art such as cigar-store figures, carvings, and ship figureheads also can be seen.
“Grandmother To The Nation” is an exhibit of original Grandma Moses art that is on display at the museum only until December 31. It includes 40 paintings by Anna Mary Robertson “” Grandma Moses “” as well as photographs, artifacts, and other items from her era.
The Fenimore Art Museum is open daily through October 9, and then Tuesday through Sunday through December 31, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free to children 6 and under, $5 for children 7 to 12, $9.50 for seniors, and $11 for adults. For more information, call (888) 547-1450 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.
Each of these three museums requires at least a half day to do them justice. The Cooperstown trolley will take you to all three of these museums and, when you’re done visiting them, it will shuttle you around town. Just leave your towed car in a designated parking area and you’ll be on your way. The trolley picks up at three different parking lots and stops at many places along the way, so you can check out the galleries, shops, and restaurants in town at your leisure.
There are several other fascinating places in this region, so if you’re visiting for an extended period you’ll want to check them out. The National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum, which is approximately 30 minutes south of Cooperstown in Oneonta, is a kid-friendly museum where children can test their soccer skills in the Kicks Zone or perhaps watch a soccer game being played on an outdoor field.
They’ll find interactive video games about soccer as well as early 20th-century soccer equipment, pictures of all the greats and, of course, a jersey worn by Pele. You also will find two U.S. FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup championship trophies (1991 and 1999). There is so much more, I’m sure soccer fans will be delighted in their visit to the Soccer Hall of Fame. For further information, call (607) 432-3351 or visit www.soccerhall.org.
Another fun stop while you’re in the area is the Northeast Classic Car Museum, located in Norwich, approximately 25 miles west of Oneonta. For 2006 it features “The Class of 56″ “” in other words, many 1956 cars in a special display. Seven regular exhibits contain nearly 125 cars, including Duesenbergs, Packards, Cords, Auburns, Franklins (the largest Franklin collection anywhere), and Pierce-Arrows. In addition to this you’ll see a one-of-a-kind car that was made by a blacksmith, and 10 of the 150 kinds of cars that were made in New York state. Along with the cars you’ll find mannequins dressed in period clothing that correspond to each vehicle’s era. Call (607) 334-2886 for more information or visit www.classiccarmuseum.org.
Cooperstown offers so much more to see than museums. There are antiques shops galore; boat tours of Lake Otsego on the Glimmerglass Queen; the Glimmerglass Opera; and the list goes on. The best place to start is to get your hands on a copy of the chamber of commerce’s visitors guide, which is free. Wherever you wander in the Cooperstown area, you’ll find fun things to do and see. It’s absolutely family-friendly, but even if you’re traveling without youngsters, you’ll love your visit here.
Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce
31 Chestnut St.
Cooperstown, NY 13326
The Cooperstown area has many campgrounds, and most are listed in the visitors guide available from the chamber. You also can check your favorite campground directory and FMCA’s Business Directory, published in the January and June issues of FMC and online at FMCA.com.
Another very good Web site is