Creating a Cultural Village

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1936

Members of the Clark family, heirs to much of the Singer Sewing Company fortune, have resided in the bucolic village of Cooperstown, New York, since the mid-1800s. When the Depression damaged the area’s prosperity, Stephen Clark and other representatives of the Clark Foundation (founded in 1931) sought to revive local business and tourism by creating a baseball museum. In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its inaugural class of five members: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.

The hall went on to become a classic of American culture, and the progenitor of many other museums. It attracts 300,000 visitors a year, has an $11-million annual budget, and employs 100 full-time staff in a village of a little more than 2,000 people. The current chairman of the board of directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is Jane Clark, who is also president of the Clark Foundation.

In the decades before and after the founding of the Hall of Fame, Clark relatives and foundation members were also instrumental in building up other cultural institutions in the Cooperstown area—including the historic Farmers’ Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, the New York State Historical Association, and the Glimmerglass Opera. The foundation also spends millions in the Cooperstown region on annual scholarships for children, village beautification, land preservation, local sports, the regional hospital, and the historic Otesaga and Cooper inns.

With half a billion dollars in assets, and nearly $20 million of annual giving, the Clark Foundation has funded many projects. In its support for the various cultural complexes in Cooperstown, however, the family has created an entire community of museums and art, and a true center of Americana.

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