the 1820's, a consortium of shops called the Hanover Arcade was located
where the State Tower building now stands. The "Hanover" name has endured to
this day, although the square was sometimes also called "Hangover Square"
because of the many taverns that once surrounded it.
The triangular shape of the square
was formed in the early 19th century when the city's new grid street
system was superimposed on the diagonal route of the early Genesee
Turnpike (today Genesee Street).
The larger Clinton Square, just to
the west, had developed first but, following completion of the Erie Canal
in 1825, commercial and retail activity quickly spread along Genesee
Street into Hanover Square.
All of the East Water Street
buildings, on the north side of Hanover Square, had their backs to the
utilitarian northern side of these buildings facilitated the
movement of goods on and off the canal boats. At the front, the buildings
presented a more ornate face to potential customers and the city in
From about 1840 on, another
transportation link just one block to the south -- the railroad -- brought
additional commerce to the Square.
The first buildings on the square
were a church and several wooden structures, both commercial and
residential. In March of 1834 a devastating fire destroyed all the
buildings on the north side of the square, next to the canal. These were
replaced that same year by a row of narrow brick structures, in the
Federal style, with high gable ends and roofs pitched toward the street.
Because they rose so quickly on the site of the burned structures they
came to be known as the Phoenix Buildings. Four of the Phoenix Buildings
still stand on the northern edge of the square today.
Hanover Arcade, where the State Tower building now stands.
Owners of the wooden buildings across
the square to the south, envious of the newly erected brick structures,
agreed in 1834 to erect a similar row of brick buildings along East
Genesee. Franklin Square was known at that time as Franklin Square and
this second row of brick buildings was named the Franklin Buildings. Three
of the Franklin Buildings still stand on the southern edge of the square
During the early days of Syracuse, because
Hanover Square was the major transfer point on the Canal, it became not
only the city's primary commercial district but also its primary meeting place.
As with Clinton Square, this natural
public space has been an important center of social and political life,
with its public meetings, demonstrations and partisan speeches. During the
Civil War, military recruiting booths covered the Square. In
1865, when Abraham Lincoln's remains were traveling through Syracuse on
their way to internment in Springfield Illinois, thousands came to Hanover
Square to hear eulogies for the fallen leader.
Most of the buildings that constitute the boundary of
Hanover Square are very much as they were before World War II -- in fact,
much of Hanover Square is little changed since the Civil War. Several of
the buildings date to the period of the 1830's, 1840's and 1850's. Other
buildings on the Square date to the late 19th century.
Hanover Square is a laboratory of
architectural styles. Federal, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate,
Romanesque, Sullivanesque, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Neo-classical and
Art Deco are all represented. Seventeen buildings in all, grouped
triangularly around this historic open space, are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
Historically, Hanover Square has been
almost exclusively commercial. Aside from the shops and businesses located
here, it served as a "hack stand" where drivers would hire out their
wagons to local merchants. For years pedestrians, especially ladies,
complained that they could not safely travel from one side of the Square
to the other due to the standing carts, mud and moving vehicles.
Hanover Square was so compact, and the lots so small, it was not easily
incorporated into the large urban renewal projects that leveled whole city
blocks just a few yards away.
Hanover Square was the city's first
Historic Preservation District.