We are always thankful, and we always congratulate, any efforts to keep our local history alive.  There is a tiny church on Rt. 28 just south of Cooperstown that has received a new life, a life as a designated historic place.  The church, although tucked in between the busy highway and the sprawling Cooperstown Dreams Park, is a significant piece of local history.

Thanks to the research and persistence of SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program, Hartwick Seminary’s Evangelical Lutheran Church will be recognized and protected through the New York State Register of Historic Places and nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

The church is situated along New York State Route 28 five miles southwest of Cooperstown, bordered to the east by the Cooperstown Dreams Park. Built in 1839, it is of the Greek Revival style and, according to Dr. Cynthia Falk, professor at SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program, well worth preserving due to its social and architectural history.

“The Evangelical Church has been an important component to the landscape in the community that grew up around Hartwick Seminary for over 180 years,” said Dr. Falk. “The changes and additions that occurred to the building over time have been sensitive to its past.”

Dr. Falk said that despite the recreational fields that surround the structure, the church retains its overall historical integrity. It remains as the key feature of the once prominent Hartwick Seminary, the namesake of the area, which evolved to become Hartwick College in Oneonta.

Dr. Falk and her students were contacted by a member of the church’s congregation to discover whether the church could be added to the National Register of Historic Places. She and three students of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, Emma Dambek, Nick DelDuca, and Anna Minnebo, conducted research during the spring 2021 semester. They studied the history of the church and Hartwick Seminary using old newspapers, interviews, published histories and archival materials. They visited the site, took photographs, and provided details that were included in a lengthy application to make the church’s case for the National Register of Historic Places.

“Service-learning projects such as this benefit both the community and the students,” said Dr. Falk. “The community will be able to enjoy the historic church for years to come, and the students gain hands-on experience that they can directly apply after graduation.” Minnebo accepted a position as the preservation planner for the City of Holland, Michigan.

The church desired this listing both to recognize its history but also to qualify for grant funding from the New York Landmarks Conservancy Sacred Sites program.

The outskirts of Cooperstown have evolved, developing to serve new roles for the community. “These changes have emanated outwards and can be seen around the church,” said Dr. Falk. “Despite all the development this stretch of NY-28 has seen, the setting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church with the hills beyond the Susquehanna River rising in the distance remains.”

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