The founding force behind the Ilion Free Public Library was Clarence W. Seamans. Seamans was born in Ilion New York, June 5th 1854. He was educated in the public schools until he was 15 years old and began to earn his living in the employ of the Eliphalet Remington & Sons arms works in his native town. In 1875, he abandoned that work temporarily and went to Utah where he spent three years as a mine superintendent, returning in 1878 to become manager of typewriter sales for Fairbanks & Co., and Eliphalet Remington & Sons. In 1882, he organized the firm of Wychoff, Seamans and Benedict, which was later incorporated as the Remington Typewriter Co. In 1893 he became its president.
During his long years with the Remington Company, Seamans was known for his philanthropic activities including the founding, planning and implementation of the new library. In 1891, Seamans purchased land for the site of the new library from Michael Gibblin. The Romanesque-styled building was designed by the architect George P. Chappell of New York City, and executed by the local builder Albert N. Russell. Two years later, on October 27th 1893, the library was formally opened. At that time a bill was introduced into the New York State legislature and shortly thereafter passed and signed by the Governor Hank Gardner, authorizing the Village of Ilion to appropriate money for the maintenance of the new library.
In April 1965 a Master Plan was written to study a potential Urban Renewal Project for the Village of Ilion, New York. A Village Planning Board, the Village Board, and citizens of Ilion collaborated with Federal and State Governments to develop a project that would revitalize the central business district and improve the streets/highways. The plan was to replace the substandard, near century old buildings with pedestrian malls, plazas, and better off-street parking. The Urban Renewal Agency, with Donald Hall as Executive Director, was created to oversee the project, which broke ground in 1968 and concluded in 1974. A dedication was held on June 20, 1974 with Chairman of the Urban Renewal Agency, Harold H. Riddell, as Master of Ceremonies. Also speaking at the event, were Ilion Mayor James F. Garnsey, Donald Hall, Executive Director, and dignitaries Edwyn E. Mason, New York State Senator and Anthony J. Casale, Administrative Assistant to U.S. Congressman Donald J. Mitchell. A major effect of the Urban Renewal Project was a change in the street pattern, previously an east-west route through the village, to a north-south direction. As a result of Ilion’s Urban Renewal, the historic Main Street, with its renowned building blocks such as Powers/Thompson, Union, and Hotaling, was gone, but a small pedestrian shopping plaza called the Keystop Mall had become the new face of the village.
The Urban Renewal Collection contains photographs of several locations in the village of Ilion, New York affected by the revitalization project. The photos are dated from 1967-1973 with the majority of them from 1972. Various businesses and individuals produced the photos including the Remington Arms Company, Alan Studio, the Utica Observer-Dispatch, John Berberik, and some unknown sources. Many photos in the collection were taken within the Central Business District, primarily Main Street, Otsego Street, and areas within the vicinity of these locations. Taken before and during the project, the photos show the razing of buildings, the construction of new ones, and the rerouting of streets.