New Life, New Lives At Old House
Suffragist's home to serve as women's halfway
October 22, 2002
By Frank Brieaddy, Staff writer
The final - and largest - piece of financing has been
secured to turn the historic Harriet May Mills house at 1074 W. Genesee St.
into an 11-bed halfway house for women in recovery from alcohol and drug
Robert V. Shear, president of Syracuse Brick House, said his
nonprofit group recently received confirmation of up to $341,500 for the
project from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance through
its Homeless Housing and Assistance Program.
The renovation, which will result in the first new licensed
halfway house in the city for recovering addicts since 1969, has financing
commitments totaling $731,500 from the state, the city of Syracuse and
Mills, a prominent women's suffragist and the first woman to
run for statewide office in New York, lived most of her life in the house
that was built for her parents about 1857. The home was later a hardware
It was slated for destruction to make way for a carwash when
Syracuse Brick House teamed with local historic preservationists to save the
"It's the only remaining home of a prominent 19th-century
reformer left in the city of Syracuse," Shear said.
He said the renovated house will become a stop on the new
National Women's Rights National History Trail.
Historic preservation will have to be blended with existing
local housing codes and state requirements for halfway houses.
"We're going to restore the outer portion so that it looks
pretty much the way it looked 100 years ago," Shear said. He
said most of the interior will be gutted to provide modern
utilities, bedrooms, laundry and recreational space suitable for 11 women.
Some interior details will be preserved, among them an
ornate staircase and original fireplaces.
"It's going to be a challenging integration of all the
regulations that apply," said project architect Randy Crawford of Crawford &
Stearns, specialists in historic preservation.
Shear said he foresees significant negotiations over the
renovation plans with historic-preservation experts and state officials
concerned about safety and health issues.
Crawford said he was optimistic that everything could be
"Preservation doesn't have to be that big a deal, if you
approach it in the right way," he said.
The goal is to have the design completed by early next year,
the review phase done in the spring and construction under way by summer,
Shear said. The house will be finished by the end of 2003 at the earliest.
The women who stay in the halfway house for an average of
six months will be leaving inpatient treatment for their addictions, but
continuing outpatient counseling while they work on job skills and seek
their own housing.
Syracuse Brick House, which operates two men's halfway
houses and another women's halfway house, is a program of Syracuse
Behavioral Healthcare, which offers state-licensed inpatient and outpatient
addiction treatment and transitional housing for about 300 clients a year.