Plan drafted to mark famed architect's grave

March 24, 2002

by Dick Case, Post-Standard Columnist

Just now, Ward Wellington Ward, the icon of Syracuse architecture, is remembered with a pine pole stuck in the ground and an entry in the burial book at Woodlawn Cemetery near Eastwood.

David Rudd, Claire Sturr, Cleota Reed and their friends in the Arts and Crafts Society of Central New York mean to do something about that.

They're raising interest and money to give the architect a gravestone 70 years after his death.

"Ward didn't leave anything to us except the monuments of his oeuvre - nearly 100 works in Syracuse alone - plus almost a complete record of his drawings of them, a unique heritage in itself," according to Cleota Reed of Syracuse, his biographer.

"Now we are giving him a marker. It seems only right that the man who gave us so many monuments should have one, too."

Ward's unmarked grave is in among 15 burials that are marked with monuments in Woodlawn's oldest, western section, along Grant Boulevard. The cemetery opened in 1881.

This is the Moyer family lot. In 1900, at 25, the architect from Chicago married Maude Moyer, the only daughter of Harvey Moyer, proprietor of Moyer Carriage Co. Moyer later made cars.

The cemetery lot covers a mound of land crowned by a 40-foot obelisk marked "Moyer" and surrounded by stones to city beer makers, mayors and candlemakers, among other notables.

Cleota Reed organized the 1978 exhibit on Ward's work at the Everson Museum, which touched off an interest in the architect's Arts and Crafts-era home designs, most of them in the Syracuse area. She also wrote the exhibit catalog, which served as an inventory of his known designs at the time, and a biography.

Since then, Cleota and Ward fans in the Arts and Crafts Society worked to complete the inventory and get the buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So far, an extraordinary 26 buildings designed by Ward have been cited.

The survey identified 81 surviving designs in the city, 65 of them eligible for the national list. The research into Ward's work sidelined study of his life. Recently, however, a Ward researcher visited the cemetery and found the master's ashes lie in an unmarked grave.

This isn't the first time the society found a project in a cemetery.

In 1997, it was discovered that another hero of the Arts and Crafts movement in Syracuse, designer Harvey Ellis, had been buried without a monument in St. Agnes Cemetery. Members raised the money to mark the 1904 grave.

Ward's resting place is between two members of the Moyer family. His wife, who died in 1961, lies in another row of triangular monuments around the shaft, which rises into the branches of a sugar maple tree.

Dick Bruns, superintendent at Woodlawn, helped society members find the spot and check cemetery records. The new marker must be a copy of others on the lot and likely will cost about $2,000.

Cleota Reed says the society would like to raise the money by donations and place it at the grave this fall. Members hope that Ward's daughter, Peggy Forgan; her son, Peter; and daughter, Sandy, will make the trip from their home in Enumclaw, Wash., for a graveside service.

Ward Wellington Ward was born in Chicago of English parents - Emma and William - who immigrated to the United States from Canada. He met Maude Moyer when she was a student at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

He started practicing in New York City, then moved to Syracuse in 1908. Ward later remodeled a farmhouse for the Moyers on Old Liverpool Road (Moyerdale) and designed a factory complex for the Moyer company that still sits on Wolf Street. Yes, it's the block with what looks like a Victorian cottage on the roof.

In 1916, Ward designed and built his own home across the road from Moyerdale, on a five-acre lot overlooking Onondaga Lake.

The Wards called their aerie "LeMoyne Manor." They filled the house with art and antiques.

Their daughter Peggy hasn't lived in Syracuse since her marriage more than 40 years ago. She talked by phone last week from the home she shares with Peter and Sandy.

Yes, his daughter remembers "Daddy Ward" at work at his drafting table at LeMoyne Manor in his "gray suits and white ties," calling her by the pet name of "Peggins." She was 16 when he died.

Maude Ward later sold LeMoyne Manor and moved to a Moyer house on the Moyerdale property, now home to Breese Chevrolet. The Ward masterwork was converted to a restaurant and motel with still-recognizable features of the original.

Peggy says her famous father was "a wonderful, wonderful person. I wish the good Lord kept him."

Cleota Reed describes the architect in her biographical sketch as "6 feet, 2 inches tall, handsome, athletic and outgoing. He loved children, pets and pretty women."

Between 1908 and 1926, by the biographer's reckoning, he designed four factories, a Masonic lodge, two fraternity houses, a creamery, several camps, two car showrooms, an apartment building and well over 200 private residences, not all of them built.

This amazing practice stopped suddenly in 1926. Six years later, Ward died of "general paralysis" at the state mental hospital in the Seneca County hamlet of Willard, south of Waterloo.

Rumors about the architect's last years drift across the decades since his death. Both daughter Peggy and grandson Peter told me last week Ward never recovered from injuries received when he was "clubbed with a wooden mallet" by a workman whose craftsmanship he corrected.

According to Peter, "He suffered brain damage."

The hospital at Willard was closed by the state about five years ago, replaced by a drug-treatment center. The hospital death register is kept at the Romulus town offices.

Syracuse researchers found themselves staring at two different death dates for the architect when they started gathering information for the monument: Aug. 6, 1932, and Aug. 6, 1936. Those were in documents at the cemetery and Onondaga Historical Association.

When they tried to confirm one or the other in a newspaper obituary, none could be located, although the historical association has one for his wife, and other Moyers, including Harvey, who died in 1935.

The Forgans say it was 1932, a fact confirmed in the register at Romulus, according to Angel Lawrence, the deputy town clerk there.

The handwritten register at Woodlawn Cemetery carries 1932 as the date of his death, Aug. 28, 1936, for interment. Another point of confusion is the fact the Willard register says Ward was buried, or cremated, at "Rochester, N.Y."

Dick Bruns, the Woodlawn superintendent, says he'd make an educated guess that Ward was cremated and the remains put in the Moyer plot in 1936. The Forgans believe "Daddy Ward" was buried there shortly after his death in a private family service.

No, Peggy and her son aren't sure why the architect's burial spot stayed unmarked all these years. Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Reach him at 470-2254, or by e-mail, citynews@syracuse.com.

2002 The Post-Standard.