State & Union: Santa Claus Lane Ornament Represents Olean Library | New


Sure, it’s early August, but it’s never too early for a mention of the Christmas season when the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce unveils its new Santa Claus Lane ornament.

This year, the ornament presented is a representation of the Olean Public Library.

Thanks to the ornament sales, Christmas lights are funded and can be lit in Olean from November to early January. The ornament, in a series created by artist Kathleen McDonald, costs $ 25.

GOACC conducts an online vote every year on what is expected to be the next Santa Claus Lane ornament, said Meme K. Yanetsko, the chamber’s chief operating officer. Over 60 buildings or parks have been mentioned, but four pioneers have emerged: Sprague’s Maple Farms, Cutco Kabar Visitor Center, Portville Pioneer Park, and Olean Public Library.

“The four contestants all received many votes, but the library got more votes as they celebrate their 150th anniversary in 2021,” Yanetsko said.

A brief history is included with each ornament.

Olean’s first library came into being when a small group of citizens gathered on March 25, 1871, in the private school run by Mary Lyon. By the end of their meeting, the Olean Library Association was born and the group spent the following months raising funds and finding a location.

The new library opened on August 15, 1871, in a space donated by John G. Pelton in his tailor shop on the west side of Union Street. Open Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., the library contained 697 books and charged an annual membership fee.

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Slowly the library grew and by 1878 its collections could no longer be contained in the tailor shop space. During the period 1878 to 1888, the library moved to several temporary locations, including a rented room on the Birge Block, the second floor of the Exchange Bank, the Olean Opera House and 102 Hamilton St.

Community entrepreneur George V. Forman, seeing the need for a large permanent space, offered to donate his old office to the Library Association in 1888, requesting that the association create an endowment. A huge fundraising effort was made by individual donors as well as the Ladies Library Endowment Society, led by Julia E. Lamper Jewell, and the requirements for Forman’s donation were met. The Forman Library opened at 85 Union Street on April 2, 1889. In the new space, the council expanded the library’s collections and created a free reading room.

In 1895, the library board began to think about how to become a free library and thereby access funding through New York State. Initially, the board of directors found this idea impossible; townspeople faced economic hardship, and the new roads forced the town of Olean to charge a “paving tax,” which took up much of the library’s small budget. However, board members continued to work with city and school officials to secure the funding and future of the library. On December 13, 1906, the institution was renamed “Oléan Public Library” and became free for all citizens of Oléan.

In October 1908, the library board also donated the Forman Library property to the Olean Free School District, allowing the library to be funded by annual school tax funding.

A new facility funded by the Andrew Carnegie Endowment was planned to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Olean community. Architect Edward Tilton was hired and the cornerstone of the new building was laid on July 3, 1909. Local citizens greatly appreciated the new library, which housed musical performances, lectures, art exhibitions, hours of storytelling and lectures. It was also the site of many community meetings, relief efforts, the collection of WWI books for soldiers, and the official meeting place of the Olean Historical Society from 1921.

By the mid-1960s, it became apparent that the magnificent building was no longer a convenient facility for the day-to-day operations of the library. After considering doubling the size of the Carnegie building, the library board decided instead to renovate the old Loblaw supermarket into a new library that would be easily accessible to people with disabilities.

The new facility opened in 1973 at 134 N. Second St. and Laurens Street and continues to meet the changing information needs of the community, providing access to computers, scanners, fax machines, copiers, books. audio, eBooks, digital magazines, databases and more.

The new ornaments are available at the House office at 301 N. Union St. They can also be purchased at the library. Ornaments can also be shipped outside of Olean for an additional $ 6 for shipping / handling charges per ornament. All ornaments are available online for purchase as well as on the House’s shopping site – For more information call 372-4433 or email

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