Slice of History
The building which is home to Alfresco’s Italian Bistro has a place in the history of Oneonta. Located at 26 Main Street, the structure was built in the early 1900’s by Mr. Earl Hall and Mr. E. Bilderbeck.
The building that is the home of Alfresco’s Italian Bistro has a place in the history of Oneonta. Mr. Earl Hall and Mr. E. Bilderbeck built the structure at 26 Main Street in the late 1890’s. In 1912 the Oneonta Milk Company incorporated as the Oneonta Dairy Company, which utilized the latest in milk plant technology of that time. The plant itself had facilities for hand washing bottles and milk cans, as well as hand bottling of milk products and pasteurization capabilities. Since refrigeration was minimal back at the turn of the last century, block ice was used to keep the products fresh. Milk was delivered seven days a week by horse-drawn milk wagons, the milkman and horse working in unison as they moved from house to house. As the milkman walked the products to each house, the horse
barn located at the rear of the building where the flood control barrier now exists. Before the horses went to their stalls at the end of the day, the milkmen would be responsible for grooming and feeding their horse. They would then clean their milk wagons before they were stored in the barn, which was torn down in the 1960’s. A picture, circa 1915, of the horses, milk wagons and milkmen, shown above, is on display in our main dining room. The horses were employed by the Dairy Company well into the 1950’s, delivering milk throughout the community. We have collected milk bottles and Oneonta Dairy paraphernalia, beginning a modest museum
In 1943 the Oneonta Dairy Company was purchased by R.B. Simonson, who combined it with the South Side Dairy, a competitor located on the South Side, next to what is now the Holiday Inn. Many improvements were made during this period. These included tile floors and tile walls throughout the building, parts of which can be seen in our main dining hall. An addition on the northeast corner was built in 1946 to accommodate an Italian Cheese manufacturing operation, now Alfresco’s banquet facilities. The Company offices occupied the western two stories of the building, now the pizza area on the first floor and an apartment upstairs. A large cooler was located directly behind the offices for the storage of milk products awaiting shipment. From 1987 to 1995, this space was the original main dining room for Alfresco’s. In 2011, this room was renovated into a bar we designate “Harry’s Wine and Spirit room” to honor the original occupants of the dairy in the early 1900’s. The bar is designed to be a quiet, classic Victorian gentlemen’s club-style lounge for our customers, for “raising a toast to life, as the gift of drink is a perpetual well spring of joy and good humor.” During the renovation a doorway, original to the Dairy, was discovered in the walls hidden for years. The doorway has been incorporated into the design of the bar area as one of the entrances. Murals depicting the Italian countryside accent the room. Milk delivered from area dairy farms was received on the “deck” located on the southeastern corner of the building, now the entrance to an apartment. Our main dining hall was the processing plant for the milk products. There were two floors: the first floor the machine-washed bottle and milk processing room. The milk was piped to the second floor for pasteurization, and then piped back down to the lower room to cool for bottling. The bottles were not touched from the time they were placed in the bottle washer until they were filled and packed into milk crates to be stored in the cooler by conveyors. The boilers for pasteurization were located in a large room in the rear of the building..
The Oneonta Dairy plant continued operating until 1964 when the Prospect Dairy purchased the Company. At this time the new owners moved the operations to Stamford, New York, and the building was sold.
The building has changed hands several times since 1964, and different businesses occupied the premises. Angellotti Distributors occupied 26 Main Street into the 1970’s. Tru Value Hardware set up shop in the rear room (banquet room), Wilsons Painting occupied the mid section (our main dining hall), and Sitzmark Ski Shop was established in the front of the building (bar and pizza rooms) in the mid 1970’s. These three areas then changed to Christmans Coverings and a Ceramic Shop, respectively, in the early 1980’s, while Oneonta Bubble Bath Hot Tubs occupied the main room and rear room (our main dining room and right banquet room) from the mid 1970’s to 1995. Otse-go-Getters (a printing and advertising firm) and New York Telephone (repair & maintenance) occupied the rear room (left banquet room) into the early 1990’s. Soccertown (a retail shop dedicated to all things Soccer) resided in this space until 1995. The Saddle Shack (an equestrian retail shop) occupied the front until the end of 1986.
In 1987, Jerry and Elisabeth Webster opened the doors to Alfresco’s Italian Bistro, originally located solely in the front space of the building. During the early years, Alfresco’s grew in clientele but not size. A need for more space was alleviated in 1995 when the Webster’s purchased 26 Main Street and expanded Alfresco’s to its present day size. To retain its bistro charm, an Italian Garden atmosphere was created in the Great Hall, and bistro seating was set up in the Pizza and Take Out room to accommodate patrons more comfortably. With an eye towards referencing Oneonta’s rich history, the Webster’s incorporated materials reclaimed from the D&H Roundhouse (brick and keystones in our arches and steps). The brick face hearth and slate special boards were reclaimed from the State Teachers College “Old Main” building.
The rear rooms were designed to entertain small banquets and business meetings of all types. The grounds are continuously landscaped, with garden spaces developed regularly, to offer a pleasant welcome to all patrons visiting this remarkable building. An Italianate balcony crowns the front of the building to enhance the outdoor dining experience during the warmer months. We are proud to own, maintain and enhance our “slice” of Oneonta History. We would like to thank Paul F. Simonson, former owner of the Oneonta Dairy, and the many patrons who have contributed and continue to share their memories of our building and its heritage in Oneonta.