Frat house razing means loss of another landmark

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Dick Case, Post Standard Columnist

My colleague Dennis Nett returned from a picture assignment the other day with a timely comment: "It's a lot easier to tear 'em down than it is to build 'em."

You're right on, Dennis.

We've lost another city landmark.

This week, Syracuse University demolished the home Syracuse architect Albert L. Brockway designed for himself on a beautiful overlook to the city in 1912. No. 403 Comstock, in 93 years, had been a private home, a university living center, a sorority house and lately, a fraternity house.

Kevin Morrow, speaking for SU, said the school needs the lot to put up a new 349-space parking garage to replace parking on University Place, the site of a new Life Sciences Complex.

He said SU bought the house from Theta Chi fraternity last July, in a property swap that moved the group to 711 Comstock. Two other old homes owned by other Greek societies in the western half of the lot were torn down before.

The original news release on the new garage from SU mentioned only "contractors have begun preparing the site for excavation."

Albert Brockway was a former SU professor of architecture and a consultant to the state architect's office who began designing homes and public buildings in his adopted hometown in the 1890s. He chaired Syracuse's first Planning Commission in 1918.

No, he was not the namesake of SU's Brockway Hall dormitory; that was Perle Brown Brockway, a 1908 graduate of the university's medical college. Both Brockways were from Utica.

The architect's commissions included a home for the Dunn family next door to his at 401 Comstock.

Still standing are Sweet Memorial Building in Phoenix, the

Rome Post Office (now the historical society), the state fair Horticultural and Pure Foods Buildings; New York City's St. Luke's Hospital; and Peck Hall (recently the charter school).

Also, the Central High School addition, Bank of Syracuse (Hanover Square) as well as homes in Syracuse for the Nottinghams, Dousts, Soules, Holdens, Schoenecks and Schopfer Court on James Street.

Albert Brockway died in 1933. The Comstock Avenue home then was occupied by the Crocketts, Salmons and Eckels until it was sold to Iota Alpha Pi sorority, which had No. 403 from 1946-1972. SU bought the place for Whitman, a cottage for women. In 1986, it was purchased by Theta Chi.

A helpful reader, Bruce Laidlaw, an attorney and SU alumnus, called me about the Brockway house last week. He pointed out this block, bounded by East Adams and Marshall streets and Ostrom Avenue, once held other fraternities and sororities, including his own house, Delta Upsilon.

DU, we recall, once was writer Stephen Crane's place, when he was an SU student for a year. It's now a university office and not involved in the present development, according to Kevin Morrow.

Bruce Laidlaw is sad to see the Brockway home gone. "It was gorgeous," he says.

2005 The Post-Standard.