Where it all Began
The mansion has been home to the Arts Council since 1999. Its distinctive Victorian design with high ceilings, arched windows, and spacious rooms, provides an inspiring backdrop for exhibitions, workshops, art classes, and performances.
The Wilber Mansion was built by George I. Wilber, the son of the founder of Wilber National Bank (now part of Community Bank) and President of the bank from 1890 until his death. Built in 1875, it was at first a simple, flat-roofed structure. In the early 1890s, the building was renovated in the High Victorian style with fanciful decorative motifs, adding the imposing turret, deep wrap-around porches, carriage porch, and stained glass windows.
Huntington Memorial Library Archives
The city took ownership in 1954, and the use of the property was uncertain. Finally, a public vote decided that the mansion be saved instead of razed for parking, and for the next ten 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 1990s, 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 has transformed to include three galleries, an office, and a kitchenette reception area.
The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
The Mansion Today
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 were notable accomplishments in this endeavor. In 2020, thanks to New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant to the City of Oneonta, signage was updated, and the carriage house received an awning and exterior lighting.
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!