Downtown – Cooperstown, New York

Isaac Kremer/ September 6, 2020/ downtown/ 0 comments

Cooperstown is a wonderful example of a downtown anchored by major destinations – namely the Baseball Hall of Fame and an exceptional natural resource in the form of Glimerglass Lake. Throw in an association with famous literary figure – James Fennimore Cooper – then the stage is set. Most of the historic buildings here are fairly well taken care of. What is clear is that downtown housing is not a priority. That limits the ability to support downtown businesses except from tourist traffic. The booming craft beer and winery scene is only partially represented too, providing an opportunity for growth.

Baseball of Hall Fame
As this plaque shows there are memorials for everything. Surely the first Hall of Fame Induction is a significant event that brought many notable figures here. The memorialization of memories is part and parcel of Cooperstown.
With the Hall of Fame at one end, a row of buildings on the opposite side of the street shows the connection between attraction and downtown.
A block away the Yvonne Watts House from 1791 is touted as “Now the 2nd Oldest Dwelling” at 31 Pioneer Street. Originally a tavern it has been remodeled to the point where it sort of fades away from everything around it, rather than having a historic feel. Nevertheless, this building anchors all that surrounds it due to earlier historic associations.
Likewise, Phinney’s Pasture is reputedly the location where the first baseball game was ever played or very near it, depending on the stories you subscribe to. In the 1930s a WPA project built a more substantial stadium for “Doubleday Field” as it is now called.
Existing Doubleday Field this four-story building stands out for its industrial character seemingly out of place, though also authentic to its site. This tension between real and imagined permeates everything throughout Cooperstown.
Likewise, a ghost sign for “Smally’s Theatre” just outside of the stadium provides a reminder of entertainment from an earlier time with a very substantial fly tower, showing that live shows and theatrical productions once passed through this area. The revival of theater and places of entertainment would seem to be a promising option for encouraging greater vitality throughout the downtown.
Cooperstown Bat Company is the kind of on-brand business that contributes to the image and identity of the town. Note how the apparently unoccupied upper floors got a graphical treatment that fit in with them theme of the downtown, and as a marketing play complement the business on the first floor. Of course upper floor housing would be much better in the long-term but this is a good stop-gap solution.
Even non-retail businesses can get in the act of promoting the image of the town. Here a sign in the window of a bank says “Life can throw curveballs. Be ready for them.”
The “Wax Museum” in an iconic building provides a third destination between the Hall of Fame and Doubleday Field.
This handsome block is lined by three story buildings that are well articulated and create a sense of place for the downtown.
Doubleday Cafe – a restaurant that also serves alcohol – is a clever way to connect in with the story of Abner Doubleday and the bigger baseball theme.
The Tunnicliff Inn and restaurant hearkens back to an earlier day and time. It looks more like an apartment building today, and unfortunately the restaurant is not incorporated into the plaza at all next door. Instead they are separated by defensive shrubbery.
This handsome 3-story building with round arch windows on the third floor could use some help with window coverings that are more complementary with the building. White shades and blinds create the effect of a wall because windows are naturally dark colored. Something as simple as changing the window coverings would make the entire building pop more.
A view of one portion of the street with large scale windows on each side. Parking is also on one side only and is front in. What is lacking is more space for outdoor dining. Some of those parking spaces might be better utilized in support of businesses.
The time to view Glimmerglass Lake is just before sundown when lake and sky meet and become one, with a thin strip of land receding into the distance all that keeps them apart.
Wonderful to see pollinators getting a prime spot on the waterfront. Also good for the shoreline as opposed to a more intensive use such as a fishing area, or more docks, or bulkheads.

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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac Kremer is a transformational leader with a track record of success revitalizing downtowns in the United States. He has written and spoken extensively. He's always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to unlock the potential of downtown areas.

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