From the very first day in the early 19th century when Utica's bewhiskered village fathers laid out streets uptown and created an Oneida Square, the place has been home to a variety of businesses, including restaurants, paint stores, dry cleaners, newsstands and furriers. There even has been a firehouse in the area since the 1880s.
On October 13, 1891, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on Oneida Square was unveiled and dedicated to the memory of those in Oneida and Herkimer counties who fought In the Civil War. Three years earlier, Uticans had voted to tax themselves $15,000 to reach the $32,000 needed to complete the, project- including the hiring of noted, sculptor Karl Gerhardt of Hartford, Connecticut to design the monument.
The female figure on its top represents the city. She is pointing south to the many battlefields where hundreds of area soldiers had died or were wounded in the war between 1861-65. The figure "Victory"--faced north, "Peace" faced south, a soldier faced east and a sailor faced west. An inscription on an upper pediment - from Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Voyage of the Good Ship Union" read: "One Flag, One Land, One Heart, One Hand, One Nation, Evermore."
On the southern side of the monument is the dedicatory language: “We keep in memory the men of Utica who risked their lives to save the Union.” On the reverse side is the second part of the dedicatory inscription: "From Sumter by land and sea to Appomattox."
Over the years, businesses included the Oneida Square Pharmacy on the corner of Genesee and State Street, Vyner's Drug Store, at the spot where Oneida Street becomes Park Avenue, Babyland, Mc Harris's Market on Oneida Street, and Van Tines Gift Shop on Genesee.
Jacobus Dancing Academy was in full swing in a second floor hall in the building at 266 Genesee Street. By the early `40's, they used to hold teenage record hops there on Saturday afternoons that were well attended by UFA and St. Francis de Sales students.
Long before fast-food restaurants moved into Utica and vicinity, there was Kewpee's on Oneida Square. This 1950s photo shows the "hamburger and fries" landmark. Its large parking lot kept carhops busy day and night. A neon sign on the building sent a message to hungry and eager customers: "Please do not blow horn. Use lights for service."
Kewpee's was especially busy in the 1940s-50s when it was THE place to be for students at nearby Utica Free Academy, St. Francis DeSales, and Utica College. Their motto appeared on each wrapper: "A Kewpee Hamburger, Pickle on Top, Makes Your Heart go Flippety-Flop."
In addition to see-through dill pickle slices, Kewpees also sported mustard, catsup and shavings of onions, all literally "slopped" on! Their "frosted malteds," served in tall frosty soda glasses, have never been duplicated. Kewpee's was torn down in the early 1970s. Today, Dunkin Doughnuts is on the site.But Oneida Square's grand lady for most of the 20th century was its magnificent theater at 1227-31 Park Avenue, shown here on the right in this 1920 photo. It was erected in 1916 as the DeLuxe Theater - later renamed the Oneida Theater - and remained open until July 1962. The highlight of its 46-year-old history was the live show on its stage in the late 1920s that featured the world-famous Dolly Sisters, stars of the Ziegfeld Follies. When the theater closed, its owners blamed a lack of parking and the growing popularity of television.