Baseball, Opera, and Bucolic Charm
A quiet, tree-lined village amid upstate New York’s woodlands, Cooperstown sits proudly stuck in time on the southern tip of placid Otsego Lake, a lake so crystal clear it is the source of the town’s drinking water. According to dubious legend, it was here, in 1839, that Abner Doubleday laid out the dimensions of a diamond and originated the game of baseball – a distinction that’s made the town a pilgrimage site for baseball lovers and home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Set in a modest, three-story brick building on the four-block-long Main Street, its collection runs the gamut from Joe DiMaggio’s locker and Brooks Robinson’s glove to Roger Maris’s and Mark McGwire’s home-run bats and Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” bat from the 1932 World Series. In all, some 36,000 objects make up the idiosyncratic collection.
But Cooperstown isn’t just about baseball. Every July and August since 1975, it’s been home to the prestigious Glimmerglass Opera, an acclaimed summer festival that blends classic repertory with operatic rarities, performed by a renowned cast. An intimate, acoustically perfect 900-seat house has walls that open to let in the country air and views of surrounding farmland. Popular 19th-century novelist James Fenimore Cooper, son of the New Jersey transplant who founded Cooperstown in 1786, referred to Otsego Lake as “Glimmerglass,” and thus the name.
An unassuming and informal small town with a population hovering at about 2,500, Cooperstown is the site of a handsome cluster of early 19th-century architecture. Like most attractions here, the sprawling, Federal-style Hotel Otesaga was commissioned in 1909 by the Clark Family, heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune and the town’s benefactors (now in their fifth generation) since the mid-19th century.
Much has been made of its 400 windows, unrivaled lakefront setting, and venerable 18-hole Leatherstocking Golf Course, one of the oldest and most scenic in the United States.