The town of Otsego, New York, six miles from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in Upstate New York, is the preferred destination for the future home of the American Irish Historical Society, according to sources.
Four members of the board, including the president-general, resigned from the 125-year-old organization after the idea was proposed to move the AIHS, currently located in New York City, at a board meeting. The town, population 18,000, was where author James Fenimore Cooper who wrote “Last of the Mohicans” grew up.
The venue is halfway between Boston and New York but one board member who resigned stated there was no possibility whatever that the Society could exist so far away from the great Irish centers
“Who is going to drive 3 1/2 hours to visit the society,” the person asked. “Or If a scholar wants to study the archives which are not digitized, they would have to drive 200 miles to get access. It makes no sense.”
The board member stated no feasibility study had been carried out or no expert opinions sought.
The AIHS is a historical center and library celebrating Irish culture, history and achievements in the United States and holds many of the most valuable Irish American and some Irish historical documents anywhere in the world.
The society is currently housed at Fifth Avenue and 80th Street in a Gilded Age mansion that was offered for sale for $52 million in 2021. Sources close to the board say that offers have come in for the mansion and a sale could be agreed upon.
However, the New York State Attorney General Letitia James is conducting an investigation of the organization. Almost 42,000 Irish Americans signed a petition seeking to keep the headquarters in Manhattan and calling for an urgent review of the management of the organization. It is believed several people have received subpoenas.
The decision to move upstate has still not been finally made, but the new president-general, UN Irish diplomat Micheal Higgins Junior, son of Irish president Michael D. Higgins, is said to strongly approve of the move. Higgins had been on the board less than a year when elected to the top position.
The four directors who resigned, Maureen Bateman, former president-general, law professor John Feerick, former Diageo Executive Vice President Guy Smith, and top attorney Tom Moore disagreed strongly with the attempt to move.
For decades the organization has been overseen by Doctor Kevin Cahill, a leading physician who opponents say has wrongly kept total control in the Cahill family despite many leading Irish Americans joining the board at different times.
Of course, one of the biggest unanswered questions remains how will the tens of millions generated by the sale of the mansion be spent.