See A. Taylor, William Cooper's Town (1995).
Cooperstown is best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Farmers' Museum, The Fenimore Art Museum, Glimmerglass Opera, and the New York State Historical Association are also based there.
The Village of Cooperstown was established in 1786, laid out by surveyor William Ellison. The village was established while still part of Montgomery County. It was incorporated (as the "Village of Otsego") on April 3, 1807. The name was legally changed to "Village of Cooperstown" in 1812.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 km²), of which, 1.5 square miles (4.0 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (2.53%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,032 people, 906 households, and 479 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,317.5 people per square mile (509.5/km²). There were 1,070 housing units at an average density of 693.8/sq mi (268.3/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 96.21% White, 0.94% African American, 0.10% Native American, 1.62% Asian, 0.34% from other races, and 0.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.31% of the population.
There were 906 households out of which 23.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.9% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.1% were non-families. 41.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.05 and the average family size was 2.83.
In the village the population was spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 26.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 81.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.8 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $36,992, and the median income for a family was $50,250. Males had a median income of $39,625 versus $20,595 for females. The per capita income for the village was $26,799. About 5.0% of families and 10.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.5% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.
Cooperstown is best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Folklore tells that Abner Doubleday invented baseball on a cow pasture within the Village in 1839. (The actual origins of baseball are much less clear.) Part of the film A League of Their Own was filmed in Cooperstown.
Also present in or around Cooperstown are a number of other attractions. These include the Farmers' Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, The New York State Historical Association's (NYSHA) library, Brewery Ommegang, and the Clark Sports Center (a large fitness facility). The Village has a relatively robust zoning policy in place and the Village Board discourages businesses not in keeping with the character of the town or what may be an economic risk.
Known for many years as the 'Village of Museums' it boasted until the late 1970s of such places as the Indian Museum (adjacent to Lake Front Park), The Carriage and Harness Museum displaying a world-class collection primarily from F. Ambrose Clark's estate (now Bassett Hospital offices on Elk Street), and near Three Mile Point was The Woodland Museum. The latter opened in 1962 by long time residents to the community and heirs to the Anheuser-Busch company, it would fold in 1974, but not before running a close 3rd in annual attendance to the Hall of Fame and Farmer's Museum.
The internationally renowned Glimmerglass Opera is closely associated with Cooperstown. Founded in 1975, the company originally performed in the auditorium of the Cooperstown High School. In 1987, the opera company relocated to farmland donated by Tom Goodyear of the Cary Mede Estate north of the village, where it built the acclaimed Alice Busch Opera Theater, the first American hall built specifically for opera since 1966.
Cooperstown was home to Henry Nicols, the Eagle Scout who in 1991 revealed that he had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, about whom the HBO documentary "Eagle Scout: The Story of Henry Nicols" was made.
Their large property, interests assembled over the century and a half, (today held through trusts, foundations, and various holdings) are reflected in the ownership of greater than largely undeveloped in and around the greater Cooperstown community.
A sampling of Clark holdings in the Village include the Otesaga, the Cooper Inn, Clark Estates, The Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home, as well as founding and retained interests in The Baseball Hall of Fame and The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital.
Cooperstown, in greater community sense, gets a continued large amount of monetary support from The Clark Foundation. It has donated money for a variety of causes including decorating the village, education scholarships, grants to non-for-profits as well as some village services. As a good steward of the community the family has previously donated land for the central and high school (formerly stables) as well as that for parks such as Fairy Springs and Council Rock.
Jane Forbes Clark II, the primary family heir today, has continued that commitment by purchasing strategic real estate to ensure the preservation of the entry points to the Village, as well as overseen the real estate expansion of the various Clark holdings.
On a superficial basis the downtown commercial district looks today not unlike it did in the 1970s. However like many small communities impacted by changing tastes and growth of big box stores from more urban areas Cooperstown's downtown has undergone significant change over recent decades.
Through the 1970s, Main Street was still home to no fewer than five grocery stores, including Danny's Market, Pic N Pay, Victory Markets, and an A&P. Western Auto had a branch on Main Street. JJ Newberry's had a two story five and dime with a counter food area. Smalley's Theatre, originally a stage theater, had a single screen across from a Farm & Home store. With the Post Office, Library, and Clark Gymnasium, as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame, Main Street of Cooperstown represented a true village meeting square.
The village today despite the growing needs of the residents both year round and seasonal as well as the daily visitors has fewer traditional services. Once boasting as many as half dozen gasoline stations, today within the village there are two. Traditional grocery stories have been reduced to just one. Hardware stores such as Western Auto, McGowan's and Farm & Home are also gone with an Ace Hardware replacing their role just outside of the village limits. Smalley's Theatre is now a collection of baseball memorabilia shops. Newberry's has been replaced with a single floor "General Store", the stairs to the downstairs floor boarded over. Main Street now has primarily stores for the tourist rather than for residents of Cooperstown.
Several lovely residences related to the founding Cooper family can be found such as Edgewater and Heathcote while Otsego Hall, James Fenimore Cooper's residence along with his Chalet cottage have been lost. The cottage built for his daughter, Byberry, remains on River Street albeit altered. Fynmere, a grand stone manor house from the early 20th century, erected by Cooper heirs on the eastern edge of the Village limits, was designed by noted architect Charles A. Platt was donated to the Presbyterian Church as a retirement home. It was razed in 1979. The grounds of it and neighboring property Heathcote (extant today), built for Katherine Guy Cooper (1895-1988), daughter-in-law of James Fenimore Cooper III, were done by noted landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman.
Residences, business, and Foundation properties related to the Clark family abound within and on the edges of the Village. From the original family seat of Fernleigh to the 1928 stone Georgian manor house of West Hill serving that role today the properties are exceptionally well cared for. Fernleigh is a Second Empire stone mansion designed by New Jersey architect James Van Dyke and built in 1869. The original garden at Fernleigh was located to the south of the mansion and included a servants' house and Turkish bath; both details since lost. In 1923 Stephen C. Clark, Sr. commissioned Marcus T. Reynolds and Bryant Fleming (a landscape design professor at Cornell University) to design new gardens for Fernleigh.
Other Clark manor homes - such as that of Robert Sterling Clark and brother F Ambrose Clark with his Iroquois Farm - have been razed over the last 30 years. Edward Severin Clark built a farm complex at Fenimore Farm in 1918 (today the Farmers Museum) and his stone manor house in 1931 which was given after his death to the New York State Historical Association and today serves as the Fenimore Art Museum. Other structures such as the Baseball Hall of Fame, Otesaga Hotel, Clark Estate Office, Kingfisher Tower, Bassett Hospital, and The Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home are exemplary elements of the Village's architectural wealth.
The prominent Bowers family Lakelands manor - as well as neighboring Mohican Lodge - and their former estate of Willowbrook, built 1818, now the Cooper Inn represent other affluence of wealth by residents who erected grand homes. The Bowers family received the land patent extending from current-day Bowerstown to very near Cherry Valley, New York upon which John Myer Bowers built the Bowers homestead Lakelands in 1804. Woodside Hall, on the eastern extreme of the Village proper, was built c. 1829 by Eben B. Morehouse and owned by among several wealthy individuals. This included financier Walter C. Stokes of New York City in 1895. His son, Walter Watson Stokes, served in the New York state Senate from 1933 to 1952. Prior to Stokes ownership it was visited by the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren.
The Village Offices and Cooperstown Art Association are housed in a neoclassical building, designed by famed architect Ernest Flagg, who also did the 47-story Singer building in Manhattan and Boldt Castle in the St. Lawrence River. It was originally was commissioned by Elizabeth Scriven Clark in 1898 as a YMCA. Robert Sterling Clark, son of Elizabeth, gave it to the village in 1932.
Several prominent residences and building were designed by or updated by noted architect Frank P. Whiting who worked originally under Ernest Flagg. A resident of NYC and Cooperstown, Whiting was also a noted artist. Whiting designed among other buildings the Farmers Museum farm buildings, the shingle-style manor house at Leatherstocking Falls Farm (residence of the late Dorothy Stokes Bostwick Smith Campbell with landscaping by the female landscape firm of Wodell & Cottrell in the 1930s), and the residence at 56 Lake Street. Cooperstown architecture was featured in the 1923 edition of The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs (Volume IX; ) written by Frank Whiting.
Financier William T. Hyde acquired in 1916 a lakeside property north of Fenimore Farm known as Glimmerglen from the Constable family. The manor house burned to the ground shortly thereafter and was rebuilt by society architect Alfred Hopkins who also designed a new farm complex, gate house, Winter House, and assorted dependencies. The estate was featured in a multipage advertisement in Country Life magazine in late 1922 when WT Hyde marketed the property for sale. Hyde, unrelated to the family of Hyde Hall in Springfield Center, raised champion sheep (Shropshires, Cheviots, Southdowns) at Glimmerglen Farm. The manor house and greenhouses were razed in the late 1960s after the estates was acquired by the Clark family. The stone gatehouse was featured in the Architectural Record is extant today as is the boathouse and distinctive cottage known as the Winter House.