Former 'Doctors Row' home at death's door
City house on former 'Doctors Row' at
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Dick Case, Neighborhoods
If the walls at 1631 S. Salina St. could talk, they'd tell us they hurt.
This venerable Syracuse neighbor, a dozen blocks south of downtown
Syracuse, slowly disintegrates before our eyes. It's been on the lot 150
years, and more. From 1874 to 1887, this city neighborhood was a village
called Danforth, after Asa, one of our pioneers.
No. 1631 has been an empty shell for years. It used to be the home of the
Lynch family, who lived there more than 30 years in the 1900s. No one seems
to know what to do with this relic of early Syracuse.
"It's in limbo," according to Dennis Connors, curator of history at
Onondaga Historical Association. Dennis, with others, has watched as the
national landmark went to ruin.
The Lynch family home
Dennis recently connected to Charles Lynch Jr., a lawyer who lives in
Auburn. He's the grandson of Dr. George Lynch and his wife, Irene, who moved
into 1631 in 1917. They stayed until 1948.
George Lynch was a doctor in general practice. His office was at the
south side of the house.
Charlie Lynch provided the OHA with information and pictures of the house
during the Lynch era. He connected me to his aunts in Florida. Irene Lynch
and Helen Petrina grew up in the cottage, which is one of a few examples of
this style of architecture left in town.
"We always loved that house," Irene Lynch said during a phone chat I had
from her home in West Palm Beach. She's sad it's gone the way it has.
Historians date the house to 1850 to 1855. We aren't sure who built it,
but Irene Lynch thinks her father bought it from the Longstreet family.
Previous owners may have been doctors as well; George Lynch sold the place to a chiropractor when he retired in
1948 and moved to DeWitt.
"That was Doctors Row down there," Helen's saying, recalling at least
four others who practiced medicine in the neighborhood between Kirk,
McLennan and Borden avenues.
One time, the Lynch children found bones buried in the backyard. They
figured they had been put there by a doctor who lived there. Irene's bedroom
had a skull on the bookcase.
When I asked, she easily recalled details of the house and yard: There
were four bedrooms, a spiral stairway to the second floor, fireplaces with
marble mantels. Patients entered the doctor's office by using a side porch;
inside there were a waiting room and a small bathroom, which the family
shared with patients.
Irene rhapsodizes about the place she called home until she left for
college in 1946. Especially the large yard, which ran behind the house to
the slope of backyards of families on South State Street.
"My father had fruit trees and a grape arbor," she explains. "We had
pears, apples, peaches. There was a rose arbor along the driveway, a
flagpole and a big space to play baseball."
Among her neighborhood playmates were the "Fiore kids" who lived next
door. The Kelleys were on the other side.
All of the Lynch children became professionals: Irene was a nurse, her
sister Helen a chemist. One brother, Charles, was a doctor, another a dental
Across Salina Street, at 1730, is the Eastlake/Stick Style house that
also survives from the Danforth village era; it's in much better shape. The
elegant place, with a carriage house, recently was the home of educator Jane
Byrnes. It was built in the 1870s by the Kirk family.
William B. Kirk, the builder, and father of a Syracuse mayor, in 1843
bought the undeveloped state land that became Danforth, and later part of
Syracuse, and subdivided it. The Kirks are the namesakes of the park and the
The Kirk place is what helps make this piece of South Salina Street a
National Register historic district.
The Gothic cottage has been owned the last 30 years by its next-door
neighbor, New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, the former Danforth
In 2004, the pastor, the Rev. James T. Jones, told me the church bought
the house intending to turn it into a center for the congregation, but never
did; upkeep on the 1884 church is an ongoing challenge.
Three years ago, the Model Neighborhood agency, another neighbor, came up
with a plan to rehabilitate 1631 as a one-family home. The agency couldn't
justify spending an estimated $260,000 to save the building; the dream died.
"It's an eyesore," the pastor said to me. "The city needs to tear it
That's not easy, since this is a designated historic district. The city
would have to prove to state preservation officials that this contributing
element to the district is a threat to public safety.
Jim Blakeman, the city's codes enforcement director, said this week 1631
isn't "in the pipeline for demolition because of its historic nature. It is
among the vacants around the city we monitor."
The landmark keeps slipping away from us. The front porch is the latest
loss. In time, it will fall down.
"It was such a pretty place," Irene Lynch says of her girlhood home. "It
breaks my heart to see it now."
Dick Case writes about neighborhoods every Thursday. Reach him at
470-2254, or by e-mail, email@example.com.
© 2005 The Post-Standard.