where it all began
The mansion has been home to the Arts Council since 1999. Its distinctive Victorian design with high ceilings, arching windows and spacious rooms, provides an inspiring backdrop for exhibitions, workshops, art classes and performance.
The Wilber Mansion was built by George I. Wilber, the son of the founder of Wilber National Bank (now part of Community Bank) and was himself President of the bank from 1890 until his death. Built in 1875, it was at first a simple, flat roofed structure. In the early 1890’s, the building was renovated in the High Victorian style with fanciful decorative motifs; an imposing turret, deep wrap around porches, a carriage porch, and stained glass windows were all added at this time.
The city took ownership in 1954 and the use of the property was uncertain. A public vote decided that the mansion be saved instead of razed for parking, and for the next 10 years, the Wilber Mansion housed community organizations such as the Cancer Society, the Red Cross, and the Upper Susquehanna Historical Society. In 1964, a second debate over demolishing the mansion began. Citizens again rallied to save the landmark, and the city retained the property for the next 25 years. Renters included the National Soccer Hall of Fame, which was housed there in the 1980s. Oneonta, however, could not afford the high maintenance expenses of the mansion and it began to deteriorate. Thus, in the early 1990’s the Wilber family heirs offered to buy the mansion back from the city.
A New Start
In 1999, the Upper Catskill Community Council of the Arts purchased the building from the Wilber family, with the agreement that the facility would be maintained and used as a center for arts and arts education. Through private and volunteer support, the first floor of Wilber Mansion was transformed to include three galleries, a studio classroom, a reception room and a resource library.
The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
The Mansion Today
WZOZ Photo Credit TSM
The Wilber Mansion is undoubtedly a centerpiece of Oneonta’s history and a visual focal point of the downtown landscape. Restoring and maintaining the mansion is an ongoing commitment. Beginning in 2014, CANO dedicated itself to repairing and repainting the building. This was made possible with the help of state & local funding, donations, & community fundraising. Replacing the roof, painting the exterior of the building, resurfacing the gallery walls, rebuilding the wheelchair ramp, & the restoration of the Carriage House are notable accomplishments in this endeavor.
As you can imagine, restoring & maintaining a building of this size and age is a costly undertaking, especially for a non-profit organization. We invite you to visit the mansion to see the progress that has been made and the work yet to be done. If you believe, as we do, that this unique and historic property deserves to be preserved in all its grandeur, please consider making a special contribution to assist in the maintenance of the Wilber Mansion!