Corner of Clinton and Genesee
The Old ("Third") Onondaga County Courthouse stood at the northwest
corner of Clinton Square for more than 100 years. It was completed in 1857,
three years before Abraham Lincoln assumed the presidency. Designed by
White in what was called "Anglo-Norman" style, it was constructed of
The building was about sixty feet wide
and one hundred feet deep. Nearly the entire second floor was devoted to the
main courtroom with seating for several hundred persons and a high, cathedral
ceiling. A tower at the front corner of the building rose eighty feet
above the street.
"Architecture Worth Saving" called the old courthouse, "A work of studied design and substantial
construction," that "still possesses the urban dignity of a civic monument."
image for enlargement)
Source: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey
In 1890 the County Board of Supervisors voted to build a new, larger court
house. It wasn't until 12 years later that Archimedes Russell and Melvin King
were hired to design the new structure. It was originally planned to
occupy the entire block north of Clinton Square where the Old Court House stood.
When property owners on that block refused to sell, the new courthouse was moved
to a smaller site on Montgomery Street.
In 1907 county legal functions moved from the old courthouse to the new Fourth
Onondaga County Courthouse. From that time on the Old Court House was put to
various temporary uses. Unfortunately, these uses were not typically kind to the
By the early 1900's the interior was considerably altered with the second floor
courtroom subdivided into corridor and offices. A new third floor structure was
carved out within the original two-story room. However, with inadequate window
space and low ceilings near the sides, this new floor had all the charms of an
attic and was seldom occupied. Although the exterior of the building was not
well maintained, it remained structurally sound.
In the 1950's there were suggestions that the Old Courthouse be torn down to
make way for a parking lot. In the 1960's, when the police department was
relocated from the building at the rear, calls for the destruction
of the Old Courthouse were renewed. The authors of AWS
made a plea that the building be preserved, suggesting that the original
high-ceilinged second story courtroom could be restored to create a small concern
hall or auditorium. Today one could also imagine a restaurant occupying that space, looking out
on the newly refurbished Clinton Square.
"We must realize that a building such as the Third Onondaga County
Courthouse is irreplaceable," said the authors of AWS, "not only because of its historic associations, but
even in more calculable terms, because it is unlikely that masonry construction
of this sort, with its labor-consuming cut stone detailing, will ever be
economically possible to build again. It has been many years since Onondaga
County's own stone quarries provided stone for a monument of this sort; perhaps
they may never do so again." And, of course, they never have.
The Third Onondaga County Courthouse was torn down in 1967.
The new Syracuse Post-Standard offices and plant, completed in 1971, now occupy
the entire block.