Young moms find
community in Strathmore
I met some of my Strathmore
neighbors the other night at Stacy Dubiel's house on Robineau Road, most
for the first time. They call themselves the Strathmore Margarita Moms.
Sure enough, there's Stacy at her
kitchen counter mixing a pitcher of margaritas, and chatting with
friends. These neighbors - all women in that "thirty-something" era -
gather once a month to "hang out and talk."
Stacy and Leslie Schoen pulled
them together last year.
"This is a neighborhood of young
people," Stacy explains. "We see each other in the park (Onondaga), and
at school. This is a way to get us together."
The Strathmore neighborhood curls
around Onondaga Park and its Hiawatha Lake, which used to be the city's
main water supply. Development began about 25 years after Wilkinson
Reservoir closed in 1895.
Strathmore connects to Bellevue
Heights, an older section north of the park. The original "Strathmore by
the Park" development opened in 1919, advertised as lacking fog and
businesses, conditions that pretty much prevail 86 years later.
The immediate neighborhood
includes five schools, two churches, Woodland Reservoir and a small mom
and pop grocery, on Stolp Avenue. Many of the houses were built in the
1920s, including several designed by architect Ward Wellington Ward
which have National Landmark status.
The Strathmore moms reflect
diverse backgrounds, professions and interests. What they share is a
passion for Strathmore, and city living.
Our hostess, Stacy Dubiel, told me
reports of a "brain drain" from our town puzzle her.
"I grew up in this neighborhood,"
she explains. "I moved back here after living in Massachusetts and
Vermont for years. I chose this area for its rate of pay to
cost-of-living rate. You can't beat it - especially if you live in the
I heard from Stacy, and her
neighbors in the group, that our image of Strathmore as an area of
higher-priced homes may be out-of-date. Stacy and her husband, Tim,
bought their place on Robineau three years ago as a bargain starter.
It was a HUD sale and the house
was "in rough shape," according to Stacy, who has one child and is
expecting another. "We've been working on it ever since."
Stacy wants us to know the
neighborhood's housing costs "are low enough that we can afford to
decide whether or not to be a stay-at-home parent, instead of being
required to work to make mortgage payments."
Just now, she's taking time off
from her decorating business.
I heard similar raves for
Strathmore from this mom's mother, Marcia Schaefer, who's been here 37
years. The Schaefers moved to Syracuse from Chittenango, much to the
chagrin of their families, according to Marcia.
"We like it here," Marcia
explains. "It's nondenominational and nonpolitical. I feel comfortable."
It pleases her to "see the young
kids moving back," including her daughter.
Like Stacy, Marcia belongs to a
neighborhood club. It's the Strathmore Tea Group, which has been
gathering on Monday afternoons at members' homes close to 50 years.
"We're the grandmothers of the neighborhood," says Helen Popp, who looks
after keeping in touch with neighbors she calls "the girls."
For years, Helen says, the women
met "every Monday, even though many of us had small kids. Now we're
getting together once a month" except during the summer. The Tea Group
has about 20 active members.
Some of the Margarita Moms work,
some don't. Back then, none of the Tea Group women had full-time jobs.
"We do have a few younger members," Helen Popp explains.
Strathmore also has two book
clubs. Margarita Mom Karen McPeak is part of the Elizabeth Roberts
Reading Circle, which started in 1941. Elizabeth, an artist and writer,
was married to John T. Roberts, namesake of Roberts Avenue and school.
Karen and her husband, Steve, have
been in the neighborhood since 1998. She says the McPeaks were attracted
by Strathmore's small, close-knit feeling and interesting, affordable
"This house, and the area, have so
much character that although we were thinking of it as our first house,
we were comfortable with the idea that our career and life choices might
make this our last house," Karen explains.
"If we're going to stay in the
city, this is the neighborhood we want to be in."
Karla Littlewood grew up in New
Jersey and moved with fiance John Murphy to Syracuse from Boston. He's
an Eastwood native. Karla, a therapist at Onondaga Pastoral Counseling
Center, decided on Strathmore because of the park and finding "my style
of house," an older home that was within their budget.
Debbie Melvin was a social worker
until her son was born. She and husband Buster moved from Connecticut
five years ago when he enrolled at Syracuse University's College of Law.
They made a conscious choice of city life, which Debbie says is
affordable "and close to my husband's work."
Wendy Vaughan and her husband,
Stacey, are Colorado natives who relocated to Syracuse in 2003 after he
was recruited to work at Stack Veterinary Hospital at Onondaga Hill.
Wendy, who's expecting their third
child next week, says our town is a "huge change" from Denver, but the
Vaughans love it. The staff at Stack's helped them find a house "we fell
in love with," and they've adapted to our long winters. The season is
balmy in Denver, compared with Upstate New York, and "we can buy a house
here on our income."
Denver's median home price is
$236,000, and "we have all four seasons here."
Wendy says the Vaughans were
bowled over by the welcome they got from neighbors at Strathmore as soon
as the moving van arrived on Wellesley Road: "Our neighbors are like an
extended family. We've never seen anything like it."
Middle-sized versus big-city
living is appealing, too. Stacey's two minutes from work. In Denver, it
seemed to Wendy the family spent a lifetime commuting.
"I think my 5-year-old son was
raised in a car seat," she says.
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