May 19, 2016


Update planned for county history book

Photo from Cortland Sesquicentennial book
The Montgomery Ward department store is shown in 1958 at the corner of Main and West Court streets, a site now occupied by several businesses, including Bru 64 and Subway.

Associate Editor

The last time Cortland County updated its history book, downtown Cortland centered around retail stores; manufacturers like Vesta Corset Co in McGraw and Thompson Brothers Boat Co. were going full bore and Mullen Office Products was run by Francis Mullen Sr.
It’s been a long time, although County Historian Eric Mulvihill said, “It’s a great resource.”
Mindy Leisenring, director of the Cortland County Historical Society, announced this week a plan to update the book, dubbed “Sesquicentennial + 60.”
Much has changed since the 300-page volume was published in 1960, two years after the county’s 150th anniversary. So its format will, too, Leisenring said. It will incorporate oral histories, video and digital media.
“We want to come forward,” Leisenring told the county’s Personnel Committee on Tuesday.
The new work will feature nine sections: who we are; how we worship; how we serve; where we work; what we eat; how we play; how we remember and how we learn.
“These are the things that make the community,” she said.
Advertising, and volunteers, will make the book, though. The historical society isn’t asking for county money. But the version published in 1960 featured more than 100 pages of ads, including one from Mullen Office Products. It was marking 43 years in business in 1960. Today, it’s 103 years old and run by Francis “Fritz” Mullen Jr., now 93.
Much has indeed changed since the book was last updated. Manufacturing has withered in Cortland County with the departure of Wickwire Brothers, Brewer-Titchener and Brockway. Downtown Cortland has morphed into a student- and professional-oriented space. And there was that whole blow-up over a proposed low-level radioactive waste dump in Taylor about 25 years ago.
It makes one wonder what the future holds.

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