Nothing feels more American than baseball and a quaint small town. For a true Americana weekend, we decided to spend a weekend in the quintessential small town, Cooperstown, New York. This baseball mecca, located in Ostego County is a charming weekend destination. Home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and an integral part of baseball history, Cooperstown will satisfy any baseball enthusiast. But there is so much more American art and history to be in experienced there. We packed our car for a true American road trip.
Cooperstown was founded in 1785 by Wiliam Cooper. His son, James Fenimore Cooper, wrote the American classic, The Last of the Mohicans, in Cooperstown. He is considered to be America’s first novelist. He used the town, lake, and surrounding areas as inspiration for his books. Since the mid- 19th century, the Clark family (who made their fortune with part ownership of the Singer Sewing Machine) have lived in Cooperstown. To this day, they own substantial property and land in town including The Cooper Inn and Clark Estates. The Clark Foundation has aided many different causes in the area and was a founding partner in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1980, the town was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. For a lover of art and history I was in heaven. My fears about finding a luxurious hotel were alleviated when we pulled up to the stately Otesaga Resort. I couldn’t wait to explore.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel
I was a little skeptical when my husband told me not only was I going to love Cooperstown but that he knew I was going to fall in love with the Otesaga Resort. He was so right. This impressive Federal style hotel built in 1909 sits on the shores of Otsego lake. Fenimore Cooper named the lake “Glimmerglass” in his Leatherstocking Tales; it is easy to understand why. On a sunny day, the lake sparkles and glistens; on a cloudy day the lake gives off a peaceful vibe.
The hotel sits stately on the shore of the lake overlooking a pool, the lake, and the 18th hole of the golf course. We heard that the hotel offered a fantastic breakfast brunch. Normally, I’m not a buffet fan, but the reviews were correct. The buffet was excellent. We enjoyed our breakfast at the best table in the restaurant with a gorgeous view of the lake. The hotel also features a spa, an outdoor fire pit bar and three restaurants.
The Cooper Inn
If you prefer a more intimate boutique hotel, The Otesaga has a sister hotel located in the heart of town, The Cooper Inn. This Inn is located right off Main Street. The Federal style manor home is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. The décor features 19th century charm with modern amentiites. There is nothing but the word “wow” to describe the feeling you get when you enter the Inn. The Clark family brought in New York decorator Jeff Lincoln to renovate the Inn several years ago. He outdid himself. The breakfast room walls are decorated with a light red and white tapestry fabric. The parlor area conveys pure happiness with its yellow décor and pop of red and black accents.
The rooms in the Inn are smaller than that of the Otesaga Resort (which he also decorated) but just as pretty. The Inn has access to all of the amenities and services of the Otesaga. You can’t make a bad choice when deciding between the two.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame
Baseball was a very important part of the early years of my husband and I. He had been to Cooperstown before but never to the Hall of Fame. We were both excited to check it out even though we weren’t totally sure what to expect. For any baseball fan, it is an amazing building. Before you even enter the building, there is a scoreboard that provides scores of the current games played on that particular day.
All current major league teams are featured in the gallery called the Locker Room. From there the museum brings you on a journey into the history of baseball. The ball that Abner Doubleday played with in Cooperstown, Babe Ruth’s uniform, home plate from Ebbets Field are only a few highlights of baseball’s early years. I loved seeing the old equipment that was used years ago juxtaposed with todays equipment that is so different!
One exhibit salutes the women who have been influential in the game including those who played in the 1940s. There are also exhibits illustrating the African American Baseball experience as well as that of teams from the Caribbean Islands. The later galleries exhibit items from more recent history: the shirts and hats from the Mets game right after 9/11, memorabilia from the Red Sox historic World Series win, and the majority of World Series winners rings.
After touring the memorabilia, I stumble upon a room that was clearly my favorite. This gallery featured all different types of art work that portrayed baseball.
I loved them all! Notable artists featured included Elaine de Kooning, Leroy Neiman, Normal Rockwell, and Alexander Calder to name a few. The Casey Stengel statue of him captures his character perfectly. The art included sculptures, paintings, and lithographs.
After we left the art gallery, we finally made our way into the Hall of Fame. Over 300 people since 1936 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. They include players, baseball executives, and owners, manager, and umpires. The actual hall exudes a feeling of reverence and awe. If you didn’t love baseball and its history before visiting, you will definitely become a fan after!
Located right in the center of Cooperstown, Doubleday Field is truly a field of dreams. In the 1920s the field was owned by Elihu Phinney. Some claimed that it was in this open pasture, Abner Doubleday, a Civil War Veteran and War hero, played the first game of baseball. This has been investigated by the Mills Commission in 1905 as well as MLB historians. There is no substantial evidence to prove that baseball was actually created in Cooperstown. Needless to say, Cooperstown and Doubleday Field still remain important in baseball's history. Prior to being a baseball stadium, the fields served as several different things including stables, a wood shed, an ice shed and a fruit stand. Construction of the stadium began in 1924. The stadium you see today wasn’t fully built until 1939 when on May 6 it debuted for the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Today, the field can be rented to play on. Highschools and colleges often come up to play games. During the summer, the Cooperstown Hawkeyes (a collegiate summer team) play games at there. The stadium also plays host to festivals and carnivals. Walking into Doubleday field does feel like you have walked back in time to baseball of yesteryear!
The Fenimore Cooper Museum
A short two minutes drive down the road from The Otesaga Hotel is the Fenimore Cooper Museum. It is housed in a lovely stone 1930's neo-Georgian Mansion situated right on both Otsego lake's shore and golf course. The museum’s collection highlights works from the Hudson River School, an extensive Native American history, and American Folk Art.
I particularly liked Coates' View of New York Harbor from Weehawken. For any Hamilton fan, a must see! The foreground depicts the spot where Burr and Hamilton dueled. Near the painting, letters written by both William Van Ness and Nathaniel Pendelton (Burr and Hamilton's witnesses at the duel) are exhibited. There is an entire room dedicated to paper, painting, clothes and other objects that belonged to both William Cooper and James Fenimore Cooper. The museum is very charming and doesn’t take long to peruse. Its worth the visit!
The Farming Museum
This living museum is one of the oldest museum that gives visitors a glimpse into everyday village life and farm life in 1845. The museum consists of a variety of buildings including a working farm, the Empire State Carousel, a historic village, and a Colonial Revival Stone barn. Activities in the village illustrate agricultural methods, livestock, and many historic farming objects. There are many interactive activities going on throughout the museum which really bring 19th century life on the farm and village to life.
Cooperstown, New York is a wonderful weekend getaway for a baseball fan or a history lover. The charm of the village and the beauty of the lake provide a peaceful, beautiful country experience. Cooperstown is small town America at its best and worth the road trip!