Your Hometown: What is the Leatherstocking Region?
One of New York's regions is set to lose its historic title. The "Central Leatherstocking Region" has been renamed "Central New York." In this week's edition of Your Hometown, our Sarah Hagen takes a look back at the history of the name and visits Cooperstown, where the region's former title is rooted.
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COOPERSTOWN, N. Y. -- The mystery behind the "Central Leatherstocking Region" connects directly back to Cooperstown, New York.
Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susan O'Handley said, "William Cooper was the founding father of Cooperstown. Basically, his son James Fenimore Cooper became famous in the literary world for writing the "Leatherstocking Tales."
O'Handley says it’s those tales that put Cooperstown on the map and drew the first tourists to the area.
The books include stories and characters from early settlement times and the term "Leatherstocking" comes from the type of clothing that was worn throughout the region.
O'Handley said, "The thing that was so special about the books, was that they were received worldwide as highly acclaimed literature."
To name an entire region in the center of the New York State, after a novelist from the early eighteen hundreds wasn't working for twenty-first century tourism.
State Senator Joe Griffo said, "It really didn't connect, people didn't understand or know what it meant. So many tourism organizations contacted us in the Legislature and asked for a change in name."
For Cooperstown, a prominent piece of its history will now be taken out of the region's spotlight.
O'Handley said, "That hint of history and the reason to explain to people when they come to the area and ask why this is the "Leatherstocking region. That gives you an opportunity to educate."
With the Leatherstocking region title encompassing seven northern New York counties total, a few other communities didn't feel the same connection. They say they aren't sad to see the title go and they are eagerly awaiting the full switch over.
Rome Historical Society Executive Director Robert Avery said, "Well, I will be frank with you, in my five years here, we've never had any one walk in and ask about Leatherstocking. So that, I think, tells you where it stands.'"
Although county tourism groups have already begun to update their brochures and websites, the change will be gradual. The regional history of James Fenimore Cooper won't be torn down overnight.
Griffo said, "It will take some time, to change signs. We're not looking to add a cost in a very challenging fiscal environment. But, this is something the counties and tourism organizations asked for, and we thought it made sense."
It's hoped that the new regional title will spur tourism and create economic opportunities and that the legacy of the Leatherstocking Tales can live on through history.