Born in Middletown, New Hampshire on February 8, 1814, White was named after the
famous British Admiral and hero of Cape Trafalgar. Before moving to Syracuse in
1843, he worked as a carpenter and a builder in Andover, Massachusetts. Upon
arrival in Syracuse, White immediately made a name for himself, earning high
praises as the building contractor for the Church of the Messiah.
Following business reversals, White moved briefly to Brooklyn in 1847. In 1849 he set
sail for San Francisco and worked in California during the 1849-1851 building boom
and gold rush.
In the early 1850's White returned to his wife and daughter in
Syracuse, paid off his creditors and established what was to become a highly
successful architectural practice.
In 1856 White was given the prestigious opportunity of
designing the new Onondaga County Courthouse in Clinton Square. The resulting
design was hailed as a resounding success and elements from it were
utilized in several of his subsequent plans, including the designs for the
Jefferson and Cemung County Courthouses.
White's reputation was growing as one of the best architects
in Syracuse, a fact clearly evident in the sheer number of commissions he
received. In 1867, White designed the original Onondaga Savings Bank (now the
Gridley Building). White adapted
this style to the Hall of Languages, the first building
constructed on the campus of Syracuse University.
White was engaged to design New York State armories in Syracuse,
Dunkirk and Ballston Spa. He also designed Plymouth Congregational Church
in Syracuse. White prepared designs for over 100 churches.
Although White undoubtedly designed many houses, the loss of his
papers has obscured the identity of most of them. Accordingly, he is remembered
mostly for his more monumental work. White's reputation remains to this day as
one of the most distinguished architects to have been associated with Syracuse.
White died in his home in 1892. His obituary referred to him as simply "the Venerable Architect".
Source - The man who changed the face of Syracuse : Horatio Nelson
White by Elinore Taylor Horning. Mexico, NY: E.T. Horning, c1988. Published
in conjunction with an exhibit on his works at the Onondaga Historical Museum.