Updated 04/11/2013 03:56 PM
Your Hometown: Glimmerglass State Park
As crowds flock to Cooperstown for Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend, many will branch off to explore the other tourist attractions the area has to offer. One of those is Glimmerglass State Park. In this week's edition of Your Hometown, our Sarah Blazonis explores the park, where nearly 600 acres along Lake Otsego were preserved thanks to one family's love of the outdoors.
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Before these hundreds of acres were Glimmerglass State Park, they were the grounds of Hyde Hall. Built in the early 1800s, the hall was the creation of George Clark, an Englishman who had inherited 120,000 acres of land from Dutchess to Oneida Counties.
"He was also developing farms here, he was developing small industries, he was involved with the early railroad and the canals," said Vincent Gilbert, Hyde Hall Historian.
But the land Hyde Hall now sits on was not part of his inheritance.
"He bought this property specifically to site this magnificent house here with these extraordinary views," said Gilbert.
Construction began in 1817, but the home wasn't finished until 1834. Generations of the Hyde Clark family lived in the hall for more than 100 years afterwards. Historians said they loved to entertain, and particularly loved guests to take in all that the grounds had to offer.
"They were meant to sail in the bay in front of the house, they were meant to go hunting, fishing, hiking through the landscape, and enjoy this beauty of this remarkable area," Gilbert explained.
A home of this size was difficult to keep up, and the family moved out during World War II. However, their time there had ensured the hundred of acres it sat on were preserved, and the State Parks System purchased the land in 1963.
"We started developing the park shortly after. With the Davis area first and the camping area came later," said Richard Sheckells, Glimmerglass State Park Manager.
It didn't take long for visitors to fall in love with the area as the Hyde Clark family had. Today, more than 100,000 people every year come to camp, walk the park's trails, swim on its beach, and get a look at the state's oldest covered bridge.
"It's a really family oriented setting. That's the type of clientele we attract. We don't have a lot of problems, everyone seems to just come and enjoy themselves," explained Sheckells.
However, for a period of time, it seemed the development of the park would mean the end of Hyde Hall. By the time it was sold, it had fallen into major disrepair, and at points, there was even talk of demolition.
"At that time, the park system was not that interested in historic preservation, but a group of local people, including Clark family members and neighbors, cared enough about the house, cared enough about it's importance to this area, to New York State, to architectural history, that they worked with the state to start a restoration program," Gilbert said.
It was a program that took nearly 20 years to complete, but today, Hyde Hall exists within the park as a state historic site. Because the Clark family rarely threw anything away, visitors can view original furnishings, decorations, and even calling cards from the family friends, getting a glimpse at how the very wealthy lived in the 1800s and 1900s.
The family's patriarch, however, might be most pleased to know that his love of this site has made it possible for thousands to experience how they enjoyed that life.
I Love My Park Day is a new statewide effort to celebrate and enhance the state’s parks and historic sites. It’s sponsored in part by YNN and Time Warner Cable Sports Channel and will take place on Saturday, May 4th.
Volunteers from across the state will be participating in cleanup and improvement events at parks throughout the region. If you would like to take part or donate to the cause, visit www.ptny.org.