Designs from the past may be blueprints for the future

May 30, 2002

By Dick Case, Post-Standard Columnist

Mike Bragman's putting down a new neighborhood on what used to be dairy farms in Cicero, near where he grew up, a mile from Oneida Lake.

He's also floating an interesting idea about one type of home we might want to build in a corner of his Settlers Pass at the Pastures at Route 31 and South Bay Road.

How about a house designed by Ward Wellington Ward?

As we know, Ward's become an icon for architecture in this town in the last 20 years. His Arts and Crafts-style homes are considered gems, prized and sought after by buyers. In Syracuse, where he designed about 100, 26 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ward died in 1932 at 57.

He left a legacy of more than 200 residential designs, not all of them built, and an archive of plans, many of them literally rescued from an attic by researchers. About 150 of the master's designs - drawn by Ward in black and brown ink on linen - belong to the Onondaga Historical Association.

Historians at the OHA say this week they are working up a plan to share some of the designs with buyers and builders. An original could be copied and replicated for a fee. The archive includes floor plans, elevations and Ward's notes on materials.

Dennis Connors, the association's curator of history, said OHA approached Mike Bragman with the idea when it was announced his development in Cicero would be the site of the annual Parade of Homes. The display of 10 new houses by 10 local builders opens Saturday.

Mike, the retired assemblyman and now full-time land developer, was taken by the prospect and grabbed hold. He's a longtime member and supporter of OHA.

''What a wonderful opportunity,'' Mike's saying last week as he tours me around the tract with his son and partner, Mike Jr.

''Not only could people live in a Ward house that normally wouldn't be available, but this is a chance to highlight the collections at the historical association, spotlight the architect and produce some income for the OHA.''

Mike's paying the historians to prepare an exhibit on Ward to be part of Parade of Homes. It will be in the garage of the first home, by Dallas Builders, on the street called Addison Loomis.

He says he has no financial stake in the Ward project but would be interested in talking to owners and builders about raising a few of the re-creations in a 35-acre wooded section of The Pastures next to the Cicero State Wildlife Area.

''When I heard about the idea, I said, 'Let's explore it,' '' Mike explains. ''Right now, it's an experiment. We'll see how people react.''

Dennis Connors says OHA picked 20 designs to be made available at first. They are of buildings that Ward designed but were never built, or were built and later demolished.

They range from a mansion of 8,000 square feet Ward created for plow maker James Wiard at 1072 James St. in 1914 to a bungalow that once stood at 123 College Place, designed for John Cummins in 1912.

The mansion was torn down in the 1960s, along with other James Street palaces. The Cummins house, later home to a sorority and a Syracuse University office, was demolished by SU in 1986.

Cleota Reed of Syracuse is the recognized authority on Ward. She helped rescue some of the drawings now at OHA 谰2 . 0045.08and put together a 1978 Everson Museum of Art exhibit, ''The Arts and Crafts Ideal: The Ward House,'' that opened the Ward Wellington Ward revival.

Cleota knew nothing about Ward until she bought one of his homes on Westcott Street nearly 30 years ago.

She calls the OHA project ''a novel idea,'' adding, ''I hope they will use some of the proceeds to microfilm the Ward papers and create a new catalog of his work.''

The historian, along with the Arts and Crafts Society of Central New York and staff and students at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry, continue to document Ward buildings in Syracuse and elsewhere.

Mike Bragman says he likes to develop land he knows, to buy from friends, which is what he did for the new tract. It's cross-lots from where he grew up, near where Thompson Road ends at Route 31.

Yes, Helen and Mannie Bragman's farm of 5 acres is close to the first development Mike and his wife, Sue, started in 1986, around their own new home. They've since worked up eight more, including The Pastures and a new tract on South Bay.

No doubts that Mike's a hometown boy with a passion for Cicero history. The Pastures is dotted with historical street names - Asa Eastwood, Matilda Gage, Moyer Carriage - and historical markers we don't usually see in a housing development.

The Bragmans' Eaglewood Associates started buying these farms a year ago. The land has special meaning to Mike; he 谰2 . 0031.00wandered the pastures as a kid, and pumped water into a pitcher in the yard of the Boyko homestead before he and the Boykos walked to school at Stone Arabia, across 31.

Mike assembled his development from the Boyko and Roehm farms, and others. Bill Boyko and his brother, Bob, farmed this land until two years ago. Now they're winding down, getting ready to let Mike's crew open a new entrance through the homestead.

We stopped and greeted Bill the other day. He explained that his parents, Mary and Joe, bought the place in 1940 and started farming with ''15 milkers.'' The Boykos are remembered in one of the new street names.

''It was very traumatic for them to sell,'' Mike says. ''They trusted me to do the right thing.''

The right thing includes covenants in the lot deeds Mike says will protect the environment, including older trees and hedgerows.

Amazingly, even to the developer, almost all of the more than 300 lots are spoken for. Mike has reserved that one wooded piece for what he calls ''a Ward community.''

Forget what we hear about the economy: Cicero booms north of the Thruway. These houses will cost $275,000 to $375,000, more if the lot's in the woods.

''Cicero has more building permits than any town in Onondaga County,'' Mike boasts.

The Pastures bustled like Times Square last week, revving up for Parade of Homes. ''Some boost for the local economy, huh?'' my guide asks, looking around at the frenzy.

Not to forget some boost to the mystique of Ward Wellington Ward, an architect 70 years dead who may be on the job again.

Dick Case writes about neighborhoods every Thursday. Reach him at 470-2254, or by e-mail, citynews@syracuse.com.

 

2002 The Post-Standard.