Utica Proud – Genesee Street, Downtown Utica

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Looking back on the old landmarks in downtown Utica, it shows how the city came to be, although most of these buildings and businesses no longer exist, Utica still holds a rich and proud history.




  1. How does Genesee Street make Utica great?
  2. What about it makes Utica proud?
  3. What did old downtown, Utica look like?
  4. What do local citizens think about the changes in Utica?
  5. What are some of your favorite memories from the old Genesee Street
  6. What can we change would you like to see onGenesee Street or in Utica ?



Genesee Street, the main street in Utica, New York, holds a great amount of history and legacies that display the beautiful memories of the city. It runs from old Deerfield Corners, on the Mohawk Turnpike in present Utica, west of New Hartford, in total it runs six miles.  A lot of Utica’s finest business buildings and residences lie on Genesee Street.

From Baggs Square to beyond Hopper Street, Genesee is a street, traversing the heart of the business section, which is rapidly encroaching on the residential section.

Genesee includes government buildings, business stores, shopping centers, Union Station, and many others. It was known as one of America’s most beautiful avenues–Woolworth, Grant, Bev’s, Daw’s Drugs were all located on the street. From national well-known Stanley Theater to the famous Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Genesee Street contains important aspects from culture to education. It brought much popularity in earlier years, and today it features traveling Broadway productions concerts, as well as local events.





Interview with historian Frank Tomaino,about his “Utica Proud”.

Frank Tomaino says: “I lived in Utica for 75 years. I consider myself a Utican and am proud of it.”

Q: How long you have been living in Utica?

Frank Tomaino: I am a native of Utica and have lived here all my life, excluding 4 years in the Air Force from 1951-55 during the Korean War. I’m 85 years old.

Q: Look back, which place on Genesee Street do you remember the most?

Frank Tomaino: That’s an easy one. The place I remember the most is the old City Hall that was located on Genesee Street on the site of today’s Radisson Hotel. It was designed by the famed architect Richard Upjohn and built in the early 1850s. It was a beautiful yellow-brick building with a tall tower topped by a four-faced clock with Roman numerals. In its early years, a large third-floor hall was used for operas and other shows. By the late 1960s, it needed repairs so it was decided in 1968 to tear it down.

Q: As an historian, what’s your thoughts on Genersee Street in history?

Frank Tomaino: The history of Utica dates back to the 1780s and so does Genesee Street – Genesee is the Native American word for “beautiful valley.” The street is rich in history and before shopping malls appeared on the scene, downtown Utica and Genesee Street were the business, professional and entertainment center of the entire region. The biggest department stores in Central New York were located there – the Boston Store, J.B. Wells and Son, Frazer’s, Roberts, for example. For decades, every major parade or celebration took place on Genesee Street. The vice president of the United States – James Schoolcraft Sherman, vice president from 1909-1912 – lived on Genesee Street.

Q: What’s the biggest change of Observer-Dispatch in past fifty years?

Frank Tomaino: Another easy one. The biggest change at the Observer-Dispatch occurred in 1977 when the newspaper got its first computers. Out the window went our typewriters and so did, in my opinion, the glamour of newspapering. The O-D newsroom smelled and sounded different before 1977. The aroma of printer’s ink could be smelled years ago. So did the smell of – ugh! – smoke (for just about everyone in the newsroom smoked). Gone were the click-clack of typewriters and the shouts of editors and reporters yelling out, “Copy! Copy!” Copy boys and girls were there to move copy from one desk to another and to printers in the composing room. Today, of course, it’s all done electronically.

Q: What’s the biggest development do you think happened in downtown Utica in past hundred years?

Frank Tomaino: The biggest developments in the last 100 years? Wow! That’s a tough one. I would say the construction of the State Office Building in the 1970s. Its 16 stories makes it the tallest building in Utica. I also would include the renaissance taking place now – the renovation of the Hotel Utica and the construction of so many loft apartments in downtown Utica. And, of course, the great work being done at the Stanley Arts Center.

Q: Any fun facts about Observer-Dispatch or Utica generally?

Frank Tomaino: Fun facts? I wrote a book several years ago about Utica in the 19th century and called it, “History Just For the Fun of It.” For me, reading about and researching history is fun because there are so many interesting stories. For example, in the early 20th century, the mayor of Utica – Charles Talcott – was a classmate of President Woodrow Wilson at Princeton and often was invited to the White House. How about the fact that many of the early mayors of Utica were graduates of Yale? O-D fun facts? Male reporters and editors were required to wear shirts and ties. I was city editor when we had just hired a hot-shot reporter who had worked for papers in New York City. He reported to work his first day with no tie. When I told him that he had to have a tie, he replied: “You mean I’ll be a better reporter with a piece of string tied around my neck?”

Q: How does Observer-Dispatch make Utica proud?

Frank Tomaino: Utica should be proud of the fact that it is one of the few communities in the country that has a newspaper that has published for 200 years continuously.


Q: What about Utica makes you proud?

Frank Tomaino: I now live in Clinton, but am in Utica every day. I lived in Utica for 75 years. I consider myself a Utican and am proud of it. I am proud of the great men and women who are part of our history – for example, Horatio Seymour, Roscoe Conkling, James Schoolcraft Sherman and Helen Munson Williams ( whose fortune helped to establish Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica’s magnificent park system and so many other things. If anyone deserves a statue, it’s Helen Munson Williams). I am proud of a city whose citizens are so generous. For decades, they have supported charitable causes. I’m proud of what a great event the Boilermaker Road Race has become.

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During the project, I was inspired by Cindiana Koren’s idea, which is the ambigram of the word “Proud”.

This ambigram stands for the “proud” in Utica Proud.  I was also inspired by the font used in the AIGA group from last year, which is why I chose to re-use it now for this design. To make things interesting, I went into Illustrator and created similar qualities between the “u” and the “r”, so that way, when presented in the GIF, can be clearly read as the word “proud” while in motion.



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A pattern series inspired by the architecture on Genesse Street, Downtown Utica.

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One pattern of this series was selected by 2017 DOWNTOWN BANNER CAMPAIGN.

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After this project, I learned a lot about the city I live in and also I got great inspirations from students and professors.

Utica Proud–we are proud of the rich history of this beautiful and peaceful city; we are proud of the development on Genesee street, from bussiness, culture to education and art; we are proud of the changes we made for the city we live.

Utica, we are proud.








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