Oneonta Normal School Photographs, ca. 1914-1916


Quantity: 24 black-and-white photographs, various sizes
Access: Open for research
Acquisition: Unknown; accessioned December 1975
Restrictions: White cotton gloves must be worn when handling photographs.
Processed: Vicki Weiss, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts & Special Collections, May 2008

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Historical Note:

The Oneonta State Normal School opened in the autumn of 1889 offering a course of study for training of teachers. The original campus site was situated on land at the head of Maple Street in Oneonta, New York. The original academic building was destroyed by fire in February 1894. It was replaced by a heavy, red-brick Romanesque style structure designed by the Albany architect Albert Fuller, of the firm of Fuller and Wheeler. Dedicated on December 15, 1894, the building, which had a grand total of 160 rooms, was affectionately known as “Old Main” by the campus community. The building was used for classes and other academic function until 1967; it was razed in 1977.

In 1906, the State of New York, on behalf of the Normal School, entered into a lease agreement with the City of Oneonta, for the use of the “Center Street School” building as a practice teaching and training facility. The lease agreement ended in 1933, with the opening of  the Bugbee School building, a Tudor Gothic style structure that was erected on a site adjacent to “Old Main.” The building was named after Percy I. Bugbee, who served as principal of the normal school from 1898 to 1933. The Bugbee School closed in 1975, and the building is now being used as a child day-care center by SUNY Oneonta.

In 1942 the name of the school was changed to New York State Teachers College at Oneonta; in 1948 it became a part of the newly created State University of New York (SUNY) system. About the same time, plans were unveiled to move the campus to a new location on a hill in the northwest part of the city since the original campus site lacked sufficient real estate to accommodate the number of buildings being proposed in a massive post-war campus expansion.

The present name, the State University College of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta, was adopted in 1962 in recognition of its conversion from a teacher training college into an institution that offers a liberal arts curriculum. In the 1960s the present campus site was built up under the auspices of Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

Scope and Content Note: 

This collection of photographs related to the Oneonta Normal School, the precursor of the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta, includes images of exteriors of buildings, rooms in the buildings, group portraits of the students, mostly women, training to be teachers, photographs of the students in various class settings as well as photographs of the handiwork of children who attended the school.

The photographs of the rooms provide a visual record of what classrooms were like in the early 20th century. Typical furnishings at the time included student desks with wooden tops and cast-iron sides and legs; the seat of each desk is attached to the desk behind it.

Some of the photos have numbers on the back which appear to indicate they were taken 1916.

Collection Inventory:

Photo No. Caption / [Description]
1 Oneonta Normal School / [“Old Main”: Exterior view of three-story red-brick Romanesque structure with dressed-stone foundation; erected in 1894 on the original campus site at the head of Maple Street in the city; the building was closed in 1967, and razed in 1977] 13 x 20 cm.
2 Oneonta Normal School, Center Street School / [Exterior view of a two-story, brick building with a dressed-stone foundation; this structure was erected in 1895 by the Village (later City) of Oneonta for use as an elementary school; the building was leased to the State of New York in 1906 to be used as a practice teaching and training school for the Oneonta State Normal School; the lease agreement ended in 1933, so the building reverted back to the city for use as an elementary school; the building is still in use as a school though extensively renovated and enlarged over the years] 20 x 25 cm.
3 Oneonta Normal School, Main Assembly Hall / [A large, formal auditorium looking towards the stage;  rows of windows line both sides of the room] 18 x 21.5 cm.
4 Oneonta Normal School, Primary Assembly Hall / [Large group instruction room furnished with rows of student desks with wooden tops and cast-iron sides and legs; the seat of each desk is attached to the desk in back of it.] 18 x 22 cm.
5 Oneonta Normal School, Intermediate Assembly Hall / [Large classroom furnished with even rows of student desks, some of which are occupied by a group of students, mostly female, listening to the instructor, who appears to be seated behind a desk at the front of the room; a large 48-star American flag is prominently displayed on the wall at the front of the room.]  18 x 22 cm.
6 Oneonta Normal School, The Library / [View of the reading room showing students sitting around some tables engaged in their studies;  a small card catalog sits on one of the tables]  18 x 22 cm.
7 Oneonta Normal School, The Office / [View of entrance to the office looking onto the corridor (hallway); the scene also shows a corner fireplace flanked by wooden chairs; a floor clock and a barometer are to the right of the fireplace]  18 x 22 cm.
8 Oneonta Normal School, Manual Training Shop / [View shows rows of wooden workbenches equipped with various kinds of wood working tools; a boat under construction can be seen to the left.]  18 x 22 cm.
9 State Normal School – Oneonta, Manual Training / [Tables, shelving units, doll house, and other wood items that were probably made by students ] 13 x 18 cm.
10 Oneonta Normal School, Manual Training Grades 7 & 8 / [Chairs, tables and other pieces of oak mission-style furniture likely to have been made by students] 17 x 22 cm.
11 Oneonta Normal School, Handwork of Grades Seven and Eight / [Same room as Photo 10 taken from a different angle] 17 x 22 cm.
12 State Normal School, Oneonta, N.Y., The Opera “Martha” / [Conductor surrounded by group of students dressed in the costumes worn during the performance of the opera] 9 x 16 cm.
13 Oneonta Normal School, The Faculty / [Group 27 women and 5 men standing on the steps at the entrance of “Old Main”] 17 x 21 cm.
14 Oneonta Normal School, Senior Class – 1914 / [Group of approximately 120 students, mostly women, standing on the steps to the entrance of “Old Main”] 14 x 21 cm. 
15 Oneonta Normal School, Senior Class [no date] / [Group of about 110 students standing  on the steps to the entrance to “Old Main”; “State Normal School” engraved above the arches] 17.5 x 22 cm.
16 State Normal School – Oneonta, Domestic Science / [About 20 women kneading dough on wooden tables with marble tops; mixing bowls, baking pans, and other utensils are shown in the picture] 21 x 26 cm.
17 State Normal School – Oneonta, Kindergarten / [Class picture showing about 30 children seated around tables or on the floor with 17 teacher-training students seated behind them with 2 instructors (all women)] 21 x 26 cm.
18 State Normal School – Oneonta, General Assembly / [Convocation of students and faculty almost filling the auditorium to capacity; view of the Main Assembly Hall from the stage – See photo #3]  21 x 26 cm.
19 State Normal School – Oneonta, May Day Fete [Festival] / Three bird’s-eye photographs (each 7.5 x 10 cm.) on one sheet of cardboard (31.5 x 21 cm.). [In each photo can be seen spectators forming a hollow square inside of which several individuals are dancing around a May pole]
20 [Percy I. Bugbee, Principal, 1898-1933] / [Bugbee served as principal of the school from 1898 to 1933; this was the chief administrative office at the time]; information penciled on back; portrait is an oval measuring 13 x 9 cm. mounted on 28 x 22 cm.
21 Oneonta Normal School, Handwork of Grades Seven and Eight / [A display of handmade crafts, including baskets, hanging on walls and standing on tables and on the floor; sign on glass transom above the door reads “Training Teachers Room”] 17 x 21 cm.
22 Oneonta Normal School, Handwork of Children’s Grades / [Continuation of display from Photograph 21, showing clothing and other items sewn by the children] 17 x 21 cm.
23 Oneonta Normal School, Household Arts / [Continuation of display from Photographs 21 and 11, showing more garments sewn by the children] 17 x 21 cm.
24 Oneonta Normal School, Handwork of Students / [Some of the pieces in this photograph resemble those in photos 9, 10 and 11; sign on glass transom above the door reads “Kindergarten”] 16 x 21 cm.
Last Updated: May 20, 2021