Electronic Journal of Sociology (1999)

ISSN: 1198 3655

Untowning Hartwick:
Restructuring a Rural Town

Alexander M Thomas
Department of Sociology
SUNY Oneonta
[email protected]


This paper traces the recent history (1948-1998) of economic restructuring in a rural community in central New York State. It is argued that several similarities exist between the experience of the small village of Hartwick and many metropolitan areas. Chief among these is the role of the restructuring of production, the increased importance of the automobile, and the discourse around the concept of "progress" found during this time period. Due to the difference in population, however, Hartwick has also experienced a marked decline in community autonomy and identity.

Untowning Hartwick: Restructuring a Rural Town

The literature focusing on the restructuring of the American economy has often examined such trends at the national and international levels (Bluestone & Harrison, 1982; Wallerstein, 1979) or in urban settings (e.g., Logan & Swanstrom, 1990; Moriarty, 1991). Studies of economic restructuring in rural areas have typically examined specific industries, such as coal extraction (Tauxe, 1993) and agriculture (Barlett, 1993; Davidson, 1996), or examined entire rural regions (Fitchen, 1991; Tomaskovic-Devey & Roscigno, 1997). This study deviates from such approaches by examining the restructuring of an individual rural village as an urban area.

Although most people would refer to Hartwick, New York as a “rural town,” it is worth noting that the village itself is in fact an urban form1 . The 600 residents live in close proximity to one another and there is a central business district. Although there are several miles of open land in any direction, the village itself exhibits an urban settlement pattern and thus warrants analysis as an urban community. Thus, it should be expected that the experience of the village has been similar to that of larger communities. These similarities fall into four broad categories: 1) the restructuring of production; 2) the impact of the automobile; 3) the prevailing discourses of progress; and 4) residents' defence of community in response to perceived threat.

In most urban settlements, the capacities of production have been altered from past patterns. This is often discussed as de-industrialization (Bluestone & Harrison, 1982), but the concept is applicable to agricultural production as well (Lyson & Falk, 1993). This has often occurred due to competition from more efficient productive regions, the concentration of corporate capital, and/or technological innovations that led to a reduction in the necessary workforce.

Advances in transportation technology, most notably the automobile, have translated into consumers being able to drive farther than in the past for goods and services (Kunstler, 1993). This has been accompanied by a need for commercial structures that have adequate parking facilities. In suburban areas and commercial “strips” outside of some small towns, this necessity has resulted in the construction of new commercial structures that feature readily available parking. Such shopping areas often compete for customers against the historic business districts in their respective communities – leading in many cases to a decline in commercial activity in such areas. In some small towns, the business district has declined significantly due to competition with businesses in other communities (Johansen & Fuguitt, 1979).

This economic and spatial restructuring has been accompanied by a deconcentration of residents in metropolitan areas (suburbanization) and rural areas alike (Ballard & Fuguitt, 1985). In metropolitan areas, great residential developments sprawled across the landscape just beyond the city limits, bringing middle class residents and their tax dollars to the suburbs. In rural areas, small villages not near large cities (Johansen & Fuguitt, 1979) or expressways leading to cities (Lichter & Fuguitt, 1980) have often ceased to grow. Their prospective residents have often opted to live instead on “mini estates” carved from defunct farms or mobile home parks also outside the traditional boundaries of the village (Thomas, 1998)2 .

Both the dominance of the automobile and the restructuring of urban space are related to the discourses defining progress. Much of the restructuring of urban space was meant to accommodate the automobile: expressways, parking lots, the growth of the suburbs, etc. But this would not have been possible without a public discourse that promoted such accommodations as necessary and desirable. Hartwick, too, has been influenced by the prevailing discourse, and the business district was dramatically restructured even without the federal funds that were made available to larger communities.

In many communities, grassroots mobilization has taken place to oppose such alterations of the social environment. Often called “urban social movements” (Castells, 1983), the residents mobilize to defend against what is perceived to be a threat to community cohesion. Although certainly not urban by the standards of most contemporary sociologists, such a movement formed in Hartwick during the late 1970s.

The Car Culture

Like neighborhoods in older cities, Hartwick developed to meet the needs of a largely pedestrian population. Given this history, it is not surprising that downtown Hartwick resembled small towns all over the nation. Buildings were close to one another and to the street, and most were multi-leveled due to the economies of scale of the central business district. This structure was appropriate for a pedestrian-oriented business district, but the automobile would place new requirements on downtown Hartwick.

The impact of the car in urban communities, large and small, was a mixed blessing (Kay, 1998; Kunstler, 1994; Wachs & Crawford, 1992). In rural areas, the car allowed people the freedom to travel to and from town more frequently, but brought with it a need for adequate parking, improved road surfaces, and the costs associated with snow removal. After WW II, new highways were often constructed around historic business districts, diverting traffic away from established businesses. Villages at a distance from the new interstate highways fared worse than those with expressway exits (Lichter & Fuguitt, 1980), but even those villages on the expressways witnessed a flow of business from downtown to suburban style strips3 . The automobile also made it easier for residents of small towns to travel to urban centers, and this has been accompanied by a decline in retail activity in rural villages (Johansen & Fuguitt, 1979; Thomas, 1998. After the end of WW II, Hartwick would experience the increasing dominance of the automobile in much the same way as other small towns.

In 1948, Hartwick was typical of many rural villages throughout central New York State. The local economy was dominated by agricultural production, and Hartwick, by and large, existed to service the needs of local farmers. Hartwick had a small milk processing plant (creamery), retail shops and craftspeople who catered specifically to area farmers, and a small business district that served farmers and villagers alike. The downtown business district, shown in figure one, sported twenty-two commercial storefronts, and additional commercial structures were spread out throughout the remainder of the village4 . Although some items, such as automobiles and furniture, could not be purchased in the village, other items such as appliances, hardware, and groceries could. A local print shop published a small weekly newspaper. On a day-to-day basis, most transactions could be conducted in the village. One resident recalled:

It wasn't the prettiest village, I'll give you that. But it was, well, functional. You could do most anything here – all your friends were here and most of the stores you needed. A trip to (nearby) Cooperstown was something of a treat then.

The automobile had already begun to make an impact on the village prior to 1948. For instance, there were seven different establishments in and around the village that sold gasoline. Also, local residents had begun to drive to the nearby communities of Cooperstown (eight miles distant) and Oneonta (fifteen miles distant) for items bought less regularly, such as clothing and furniture. In the 1950 Hartwick High School Yearbook, The Hub, twenty-two Hartwick area businesses and organizations bought advertisements, as did seventeen in Oneonta and twenty-five in Cooperstown. Most of the out of town advertisements were for businesses with no equivalent in Hartwick: automobiles, farm implements, and clothing. Several advertisements were for restaurants, ostensibly because they were good destinations for road trips out of town5 .

It was during this period that the automobile became the dominant form of transportation. As early as the 1920s, state and federal programs had improved and paved local highways, and the area's interurban trolley discontinued service as a result. The 1950s witnessed a great expansion of such efforts, the most obvious national program being the Interstate Highway System. Many local residents were able to buy cars during this period and take advantage of the newly paved highways, and weekend excursions became more common throughout the region.

The increasing dominance of the automobile set the stage for more frequent commutes to other villages, and in so doing contributed to the economic and social changes Hartwick would face during the next four decades. However, other forces found throughout the United States, coincided to ensure the restructuring of Hartwick.

Restructuring Production

The automobile altered the experience of everyday life in much the same way it did in metropolitan areas, but the restructuring of production in Hartwick would take on a distinctive rural flavour. In many American cities, manufacturing was slowly displaced by service industries as the dominant economic force. In rural areas, it was agricultural products that were produced, and as such economic restructuring would center upon the decline of farming. As shown in figures two and three, this dynamic has a different aesthetic in urban and rural communities – urban restructuring is called decay, whereas the photo in has been described as “scenic.” It is important to remember, however, that agriculture in rural communities has served many of the same economic and social functions as manufacturing in large urban centers (Davidson, 1996). As farming declined in and around Hartwick, generations of social and economic relationships that centered upon farming would also be restructured.

Otsego County, of which Hartwick is part, has throughout its history suffered declines in agricultural production due to more efficient operations in other regions of the United States. The most recognized example of this is the demise of the hops industry during the 1880s, but grain and vegetable production have also faced competition from regions that are more flat and climatically more stable. In 1948 as today, agriculture in Otsego County was focused on dairy and dairy-related products.

Economic trends in Hartwick closely resembled those for Otsego County as a whole, especially in regard to agricultural production. After a slight dip due to the Great Depression of the 1930s, agriculture in the area had rebounded by the end of WW II6. In 1945, there were 3,914 farms in Otsego County. Farms accounted for 79.3 per cent of the land in the county; with 78,187 head of cattle, the 1940 human population was outnumbered by over 32,000. One local resident shared:

You'd go up and down all these roads, and all ya'd see was farms. Mostly dairy; but they'd grow corn as feed and sell some to the locals for real cheap.

Another resident said:

Ya see all these empty fields? Well, the land don't grow that way ? should be trees. All these fields used to be farms; corn, cows, shit like that. An' now they're all out of business..Well, most of ‘em, anyway.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the number of farms in the county fell from 3,914 in 1945 to 1,427 in 1969 – a loss of more than one hundred per year. Some of this drop was due to a concentration of operations onto larger farms owned by fewer operators. During the same period, the average farm in the county grew from 131 acres to 228 acres. Mostly, though, farmers ceased to operate farms. While 79.3 per cent of the land was devoted to farming in 1945, by 1969 only 50.2 per cent of the land was so utilized. Indeed, agriculture has been declining ever since. The 1987 Census of Agriculture showed that, for the first time on record, people outnumbered cattle, due by and large to the decline in dairy farms.

With the ability to transport milk greater distances with large tanker trucks, the milk processing industry itself was transformed. Hartwick had a small milk processing center (creamery) until 1962, when competition forced the plant to close. Much of the dairy processing industry became centralized in Binghamton and Oneida, both more than seventy miles away. Today, some local farmers send their milk as far as Massachusetts and Vermont for processing. As one merchant explained:

(I know this farmer) who sends his milk to Vermont. Anyway, he's right up the road here. And the store gets the milk that he makes, but it has to go all the way to Vermont and then back before we drink any of it.

Larger refrigerated trucks and the resultant shift of dairy processing out of the local area nibbled away at the employment base throughout the decade – one trucker here, a farmhand there. Rarely would more than five jobs be lost at once by the same economic event. The social drama of tens of thousands laid off by a single employer, so common in urban centers, would have no equivalent in Hartwick until the 1970s. Increasingly, the unemployed commuted to nearby communities for new jobs. This meant that Hartwick residents were increasingly likely to shop in other villages.

With fewer farmers and a non-farm population increasingly likely to work and shop in Cooperstown, Hartwick businesses struggled to survive in a functionally smaller market. The early 1960s witnessed a steady erosion of Hartwick retail establishments. In some cases, the establishments sold items the market had become saturated with, such as appliances. Just as with clothing thirty years earlier, Hartwickians tended to drive to other communities for such items, where they could get a greater selection and, at times, better prices as well. In many cases, business owners resorted to the only power they had: they raised prices. In the short term this strategy may have helped; in the long term it reinforced consumers' feelings that non-local business offered more bargains. One resident commented:

They kept raisin' their prices, and then got mad when we went to Cooperstown for things. Well, if they'd not try to rip us all off, we'd have stayed in town. But I guess they were hurting, and just passed it on to us.

Perceptions of Progress

Restructuring the economy and settlement space would not have been possible without the intellectual and popular definitions of what was meant by “progress.” During the early 1960s, progress could have been defined in any number of differing ways. One might argue that progress would entail the historic restoration of urban settlements; another might argue that progress would entail the abandonment of all our settlements and the construction of brand new towns and cities. Most often, those in power would argue that the urban infrastructure needed to be “updated” or “renewed,” which often entailed the demolition of older structures and the construction of modern buildings within a community. It was known as urban renewal, and this prevailing discourse of progress would influence those in Hartwick as well7 .

Nearly all of downtown Hartwick's buildings, some dating to the 1820s, were constructed of wood and perceived to be outdated. Store space was limited: by the 1960s, one downtown Hartwick business was spread across four storefronts in two separate buildings in order to have space for merchandise. A small supermarket also spread into both of its building's storefronts.

There were some empty storefronts by the early 1960s as the decline of agriculture and the rise of the car culture began to take their bites from Hartwick's economy. Even with the early decline, parking in downtown Hartwick was limited as residents still did much of their shopping there. The aging wooden structures themselves required regular maintenance that local owners could increasingly not afford. By the early 1960s, downtown Hartwick had fallen into disrepair, the condition of its buildings ranging from good to mildly dilapidated.

Nearby cities were planning large scale urban renewal programs, and many in Hartwick believed that Main Street should also be modernized. Hartwick was too small to be eligible for federal funds, but a local merchant would assume the responsibility. In 1964, five buildings (seven storefronts) on Main and South streets were demolished to make room for a modern, three-store complex complete with a parking lot. When it opened in 1966, the building housed a new supermarket (Peter Pumpkin, owned by Victory Markets), liquor store, and laundromat. The aesthetic difference is shown in figures four and five: in figure four is downtown Hartwick circa 1910, and in figure five is the same area in 1997. The demolition resulted in Hartwick losing 29 per cent of its downtown storefronts, but nonetheless it was viewed as positive for the community. The Freeman's Journal (21 Sept. 1966) commented:

This beautiful new facility is a wonderful addition to the Village of Hartwick and local residents are quite excited about having a supermarket in their midst.

Within a few years, another commercial property (two storefronts) was cleared for a new fire station, a three-storey hotel replaced by a mobile home, and another two-storefront building torn down.

Hartwick's economy was slowly entering a crisis. With more residents commuting elsewhere for work and a declining number of businesses in Hartwick, the village failed to generate the economies of scale necessary for a viable economic center. When one store closed:

He just boarded the place up. I went in there a few years ago (during the late 1980s) and the place was just like he left it when he closed. There was still candy in the jars after twenty years; it was like a time machine. He just showed up one day and closed.

In many cases, the proprietors chose to retire and there was simply no one to continue the business. By the early 1970s, many of those who would have become Hartwick's business elite were either in retirement or in the employ of out-of-town businesses. Hartwick was functioning as an economic satellite of other villages while struggling to maintain a tenuous sense of community. Although many worked and shopped out of town, the village still had institutions in which residents could interact with other members of the community (supermarket, diners, bank, post office, churches, and a school). Hartwick was increasingly dependent upon other communities economically, but remained identifiable as its own community socially. The events of the late 1970s would change that. As one Hartwick resident lamented, “That's when we lost our town.”

A Defended Community

In many American cities, perceived threats to local communities spawned place-based organizations meant to defend and advocate for local residents (Arnold, 1979). Often, such threats to community structure had become severe enough that residents mobilized “because not to act (was) to acquiesce in the community's own destruction” (Davis, 1991, 7). In Hartwick during the late 1970s, such threats to community had finally reached a critical mass that demanded mobilization. The village was in danger of losing many of its institutions, and with them its sense of autonomy and dignity.

The decade started with a benign note. Victory markets expanded its Peter Pumpkin supermarket into the entire building built on Main Street in 1966, creating a relatively large store for the time. But the slow decline of the previous two decades was to make itself felt more deeply to village residents.

The events of 1976 were particularly bad for Hartwick. In June, what local residents and state officials believed to be a tornado, not a common occurrence in northern Appalachia, damaged numerous buildings and trees in the village. In November, fire destroyed the Highway Department garage and much of the snow removal equipment. As one resident quipped, “God, not November. May, maybe. But it snows in November!” It was also 1976 that turned Hartwick from a merely declining to a defended community8 .

In 1958, Hartwick School District closed the high school and merged with Cooperstown School District, leaving only an elementary school in the village. The decision was made on economic grounds: the enlarged school district could offer a fuller curriculum at a lower cost to district residents. While there were some who mourned the closing of the high school, most considered the closing a harbinger of progress. Hartwick still had an elementary school, and this provided a focal point for the community. With the slow decline of the economic base of the village during the 1960s, however, the school took on added symbolic importance for the community – it was a remaining vestige of the village's autonomy. Thus, many viewed its closing as an assault against the community as a whole.

The first official statement of the possible closing of Hartwick's elementary school came in September. School officials announced the application for a grant to enlarge Cooperstown Elementary School so that they could abandon the Hartwick Grade Center (FJ, 22 Sept. 1976). Within three weeks, a group of Hartwick parents and community activists mobilized to fight the school closing, the Freeman's Journal (13 Oct. 1976) reporting that “Many people in Hartwick are upset that the community was not consulted.” At a meeting of the Board of Education, school officials argued that the move would save money and reduce taxes. Members of the Hartwick delegation countered that the school was a focal point for the community. One resident declared, “If you take away our school, you'll kill our community” (FJ, 20 Oct. 1976). The group would name themselves S.O.S. – Save Our School.

In November, S.O.S. presented the school board with a petition and a list of requests (FJ, 7 Nov. 1976):

  1. School polling center in Hartwick ? citing a low voter turnout in Hartwick, S.O.S. requested a polling place there. Committee members claimed that the single polling center in Cooperstown put an undue burden for Hartwick residents to vote in school district elections.
  2. Making Hartwick students study in Hartwick ? The school district allowed Hartwick residents to send their children to Cooperstown Elementary School, thus lowering attendance figures for the Hartwick Grade Center. S.O.S. requested a stop to this practice.
  3. That an independent cost-benefit analysis be conducted of the proposal. Figures circulated at this time were generated by a school board member not from Hartwick.
  4. Improvements and repairs be made at the Hartwick Grade Center. This request more than likely reaffirmed the decision on the part of the board to close the school as it listed needed repairs, further demonstrating the building's old age.

The major theme running through each point was a concern for the loss of community autonomy and dignity. Many Hartwick parents felt that they were not treated as equals by the school board, and believed that district policies reflected this. If Hartwick residents were treated unfairly in their own school, how would their children be treated in Cooperstown's school? The school was not just a focal point for the community, but a symbol of the unequal relationship between members of the Cooperstown School Board and the residents of Hartwick.

In January 1977, the school district was denied the grant to expand Cooperstown Elementary School, but the board still pressed to close Hartwick. The Board's desire was bolstered by an independent cost-benefit analysis released in February that predicted savings of $107,000 per year if Hartwick was closed. Exasperated, S.O.S. discussed a possible consolidation with the Laurens School District to the village's south, a move that would have required the dissolution of the Cooperstown School District. A new plan was presented to the Cooperstown School Board less than two weeks later that called for only a partial closing of the school. The last ditch efforts were made in vain. At the March Board of Education meeting, the Hartwick Grade Center was voted closed in June. On April 20, S.O.S. announced plans for protests at the April Board of Education meeting and at the school the first day after spring vacation (FJ, 20 Apr. 1977). The protest at the school attracted fifty people, 8.3 per cent of Hartwick's population. A similar proportion in the city of Boston today would attract over 45,000 people. At the Board of Education meeting, Board members were apparently nervous enough to request the presence of the sheriff's department (FJ, 27 Apr. 1977). In June, the Hartwick Grade Center closed, and the village's problems were about to become more serious.

On April 1, 1978, the town closed the landfill. Hartwick residents would have to haul their trash to a landfill near Cooperstown, a relationship that would continue until the formation of a regional waste authority fifteen years later. While this may seem a minor circumstance, town residents perceived the closing as just the latest assault against the struggling community:

It wasn't the dump. I mean, who wants a [expletive deleted] dump in their town anyway? It's that, um, ya had to go to Cooperstown for the dumps, too. I mean, ya buy your shit over there and then ya had to throw it out there, too. Maybe we should've moved there. Why did we need Hartwick?

On April 8, the Peter Pumpkin closed with four years remaining on the lease. On June 30, the Agway farm supply store closed, a victim of the declining farm population. Rumours spread that the local branch of The Bank, a forerunner of Key Bank, was also planning to abandon the village, and a petition was started to save a bank whose headquarters insisted they would not close (DS, 3 Jun. 1978; 24 Jun. 1978).

During June 1978, Hartwick again mobilized and a meeting was called for all interested residents to discuss the village's future. The basic sentiment at the meeting was that Hartwick's downfall occurred because of the school closing. It was a common opinion, and still prevalent today. Although there had been two decades of decline, it was the rapidity of the village's last gasp that brought about the mobilization. As such, the first meeting witnessed the following speech from the principal organizer (from Pollak, 8 Jun. 1978, 15):

Events which happened in the town since the closing of the Hartwick Grade Center in 1977 have seemed to start a trend, which must be changed. The landfill closed on April 1, followed shortly by the Peter Pumpkin store on April 8th and now the closing of the Agway at the end of June...The greatest loss was that of the closing of our largest food supply ? Peter Pumpkin, which closed with little notice or concern of the Victory chain for the community.

There had been empty storefronts and buildings torn down before 1977, but the stores closing this time would leave several large structures empty. The closing of the Peter Pumpkin left the new shopping center on Main Street completely vacant, and downtown Hartwick with only one store remaining.

The meeting in June lead to the establishment of the Hartwick Business Association (HBA), open only to members of the business community. It is possible that this may have deprived the association of non-business talent, but there is no way of knowing for sure. The HBA did make some early steps toward the village's revitalization. After delivering the petition to The Bank requesting a commitment to the community, the Chief Executive Officer “pledged the support of The Bank in any ‘meaningful endeavour which will result in the revitalization of Hartwick's economy'” (DS, 24 Jun 1978, 3). Hartwick would not only keep its only bank, but get help from the economic development office of The Bank.

At a covered dish dinner in August 1978, experts from The Bank delivered their recommendations. The Bank suggested a coordinating organization market the village to outside investors, a task the HBA accepted. The group would identify existing and potential sites for business and compile a database of such sites. Recruitment of a major employer, likely in assembly work, was a top priority. At various points in late 1978 and early 1979, industrial plants for processing cheese, a small Bendix assembly plant, a photographic processing center, an elderly housing complex, and an I.G.A. supermarket were all discussed as possible projects. Only one would occur: the HBA endorsed a plan to move the Otsego County Association for Retarded Citizens into the former Peter Pumpkin as a satellite center in September 1979.


A review of the restructuring of Hartwick reveals a number of similarities and differences with the experience of many American cities.

As in most urban areas, the concentration of capital into fewer but larger corporate entities has played a role in the restructuring of the community. Hartwick has lost a supermarket and a dairy processing facility to corporate concentration. The Hartwick National Bank was one of numerous small town banks bought by The Bank during the 1950s and 1960s that made it a major regional banking institution. The Hartwick branch was sold to Albank in 1996 in an attempt to reduce costs. The only gas station in the village is owned and operated by the Quickway Convenience Store chain. The key difference from the experience of urban areas is scale – being a smaller community, there are fewer such examples as there were fewer businesses to begin with.

The restructuring of production is, in a general way, similar to the urban experience if one accepts that agriculture performed the same functions in Hartwick as manufacturing in urban areas. In many cities, the service sector has become dominant in the economy. Hartwick residents today tend to work also in the service sector, but generally in the health services and tourism industries in Cooperstown. Hartwick itself has, by and large, lost much of its economic viability, and today depends upon other communities for employment, goods, and services (Thomas, 1998).

The increased dominance of the automobile as the primary form of transportation has had a dramatic effect in both urban and rural areas. In many urban areas, the car allowed the rapid growth of the suburbs – with businesses soon to follow people. In many metropolitan areas today, there is a daily commute from suburbs to the city and vice versa. Although there are a small number of commuters to Hartwick, the net effect is an outflow of residents to nearby villages for employment. Hartwick today, is considered a bedroom community and functions in a way similar to many suburban communities.

A similarity of particular significance is the influence of the prevailing discourses of progress. While cities were demolishing blocks of their downtown areas in order to construct car-friendly complexes with federal money, many rural villages were doing something similar. In Hartwick, this notion of progress proved devastating in the long run, as the preservation of its Main Street may have translated into tourist dollars today. The actions taken during the 1960s were not done in isolation, but rather were the products of the cultural nationwide milieu that stressed the new over the old.

The key differences between the experience of Hartwick and that of many cities are related to scale. Many American cities have lost between thirty and forty per cent of their populations, but remain large enough to continue as the symbolic centers of their respective metropolitan areas. But the problems associated with the restructuring of settlement space in urban areas are highly visible relative to those in rural communities. For example, shows Lafayette Street in Utica – the decay stretches for several blocks beyond what is visible in the picture. In by contrast, is the north side of Main Street in Hartwick. Although the visual effect is similar to that in Utica, this picture shows the extent of the decay; beyond what is shown are houses in reasonably good condition. It is relatively easy to not notice the decay in Hartwick; in Utica, one can spend a considerable amount of time driving by empty buildings and dirt lots.

In addition, Hartwick has been “untowned.” Decisions that once were in the hands of town officials are now handled by officials higher in the government hierarchy. Besides being a part of the Cooperstown School District, state and county government exercise much power over the village. A proposal to “improve” State Highway 205 through the village would result in widening the street by up to ten feet on both sides, resulting in a loss of fifty-eight trees and likely lower property values in the village. Similarly, renumbering of buildings in the county for use with a new Emergency-911 telephone system has resulted in the renaming of several streets in the village. In one case, a street sign reading “School Street,” as the road is commonly known in the village, was replaced by a sign reading “Wells Avenue,” although this name has not been in common usage for several decades but does appear on county tax maps. Those properties on county and state highways also faced name changes: Main Street is now legally County Route 11; North and South Streets are now State Highway 205. Interestingly, due to highway markers on these streets, signs reading the street names were not deemed necessary, leading to the rather ironic situation of a street sign for “Back Alley Road” but none for “Main Street”9 .

The case of Hartwick suggests that, as in urban areas, resistance to change and oppression is possible in rural communities. The struggles against the closing of the Hartwick Grade Center and the demise of the village economic base are proof that rural populations are also capable of such activism. Despite the general lack of success in Hartwick, such possibilities should not be ignored in the future.


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Wallerstein, I. 1979. The Capitalist World Economy. New York: Cambridge U. Press.



The term “urban form” is normally applied rather specifically to cities, but in this context denotes the dense settlement space in a decidedly rural village.


A mini-estate can be understood as a small residential property, usually of five to ten acres, which contains a middle class home. It should be distinguished from upper class estates, which normally include more property and a larger home. Mobile home parks are communities that consist of mobile homes in close proximity. In most cases, the park is owned by a landlord who charges rent for property on which the mobile home is placed. In many cases, the tenant owns the mobile home but not the property on which it is situated. In some cases, the landlord may rent both the property and the mobile home itself. Typically, residents of mini-estates working or middle class, whereas mobile home parks often serve those with lower incomes.


See Kunstler's (1994) account of the impact of I-87 on Schulerville and Saratoga Springs, New York.


See Francaviglia (1996) for a discussion of the development of small town business districts.


Several residents recalled embarking on roadtrips to nearby villages for entertainment purposes, and restaurants were seen as destinations for relaxation and entertainment. While many nearby villages and more distant cities were frequented on such excursions, the communities of Cooperstown (eight miles distant) and Oneonta (fifteen miles distant) were the most popular out-of-town destinations.


The following analysis is based on statistics gathered during several Censuses of Agriculture (USBC, 1946; 1977; 1989; 1994).


The following analysis is based largely on accounts printed in Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal (FJ) between 1960 and 1980 and interviews with local residents.


The following analysis is based largely on accounts printed in Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal (FJ) and Oneonta Daily Star (DS) between 1975 and 1980, as well as interviews with local residents.


Which of course is no longer Main Street.