53 Pioneer Street History
Not only are we focused on the future, but we also have a strong need and obligation to protect the past. 53 Pioneer Street is one of the oldest buildings in Cooperstown, New York having survived the great April 10th Fire of 1862 that burned most of the Main Street District but stopped just across the street, sparing it from the flame.
The house was built in 1826 by William Wilson and Richard Cooley. Local legend says the house was constructed from fieldstone that had been brought from the ruins of a house built by William Cooper in 1813 located to the east of the present-day property, though there is no way to prove this for certain. Wilson and Cooley, both merchant-tailors, used the building as their tailor shop and their families’ residences for decades after its construction. The building may have had ulterior uses, as Wilson and Cooley were both dedicated officials in the local Masonic lodge for most of their adult lives. The timing of the construction of this building overlaps with a period where the Cooperstown Freemasons suspended activity due to statewide anti-Masonic pressures. Some legends say that meetings were held in the building during this clandestine era, and the stonework details are Masonic symbols.
After the last of the heirs of Richard Cooley passed away and the house left their possession, the building still maintained a consistent use. The main floor of the building, from its construction, was used as a shop. This mixture of public and private space persisted well into the twentieth century as it was used as a rental property while hosting a variety of shops and art galleries. While these shops and galleries have come and gone, the experience and memories they provide contribute to the legendary culture that is intrinsic to Cooperstown’s nature and identity. The building is home to two hundred years of stories and experiences that are extraordinary and familiar and carry resonance to this day. Preserving this building to allow new stories to be made will contribute to its extraordinary history and Cooperstown’s extraordinary legacy.
Those interested in further in-depth history are encouraged to request the full historical report that was performed by the Cooperstown Graduate Program. It is a fascinating read. Copies of the report can be requested by contacting Ryan W. Miosek at RMIOSEK@GMAIL.COM