BATAVIA – Planning is underway for a big birthday bash to celebrate the charter that granted city status 100 years ago, Jan. 1, 1915.
The change from a village began in 1907 with a proposed charter that the State Legislature failed to pass. Later, a governor, bowing to citizen concerns, vetoed the proposal.
But the 1913-14 Legislature finally approved a charter that had bipartisan support of the community, and city status was granted with the signature of Gov. Martin H. Glynn. That charter was virtually unchanged until 1958, when the present administrator-council form of government eliminated the mayor’s post.
A committee headed by honorary chairman Paul J. Battaglia, whose accounting firm donated $20,000 for events, is working on a yearlong schedule that could even replicate the night-watch ceremony on Dec. 31, 1914, when the first mayor, Harvey J. Burkhart, presided over a token organizational meeting and village officials became city officials and aldermen became councilmen.
The year will open with a Century Club party for the first 200 people who pay $100 per couple. One hundred trees will be planted, and the traditional July 4 Picnic in the Park will serve birthday cake. The Centennial Planning Committee is seeking $100,000 in sponsorships for events and expenses.
The centennial will share some of the limelight with the Holland Land Office’s 200th year. The stone-porticoed building was erected in 1815 and served for decades as a center for surveying, plotting and selling land throughout Western New York.
The city’s century has seen decades of change from the days when industries employed thousands and mainline railroad tracks ran through the center of the city.
Population peaked in 1960, when the city had 18,210 residents. The 2010 census figure was 15,465, a 4.9 percent decline from 2000. Business parks have replaced factories, and government services and health care have become the top-ranked employers.