~ Endangered Buildings ~

In 2001, PACNY's newletter, The Landmarker, published a list of endangered buildings and sites in Onondaga County. Several of the historic structures on that list have since been demolished, others are now undergoing restoration and renovation.

Among the buildings lost are the Onondaga County Poorhouse, the former East Syracuse First Presbyterian Church and the Nathan Breed house. Buildings about to find new life include the Hotel Syracuse, the Amos Block and the Mizpah Towers.

The future of most of the other structures on the list remains uncertain at best, even for those that have recently been saved like the former Jewish War Veterans’ Post.

North Salina Street National Register Historic District, Syracuse.  North Salina Street, at one time called Cooper Street, was the original route of transportation and trade between the villages of Syracuse and Salina.  By mid-century, the North Side was being built up by German immigrants who made barrels and vats for salt production and North Salina Street developed as the center of their community.  After the salt industry declined in the 1860s, following the Civil War, German artisans transferred their carpentry skills to the manufacture of domestic goods.  The area developed as a commercial and small manufacturing center, encouraged by paved streets and sidewalks and a street railway.  Italian immigrants who came to Syracuse in the 1880s helped build the West Shore Railroad and settled in the predominantly German area, transforming it into a neighborhood exhibiting the influences of both immigrant groups.

Today, the life of the street has declined as retail businesses first moved south to the downtown area, then to the strip malls and enclosed mall of the suburbs.  Many buildings are now vacant and suffering from poor maintenance.

The city has invested in a variety of streetscape improvements in the last few years with the result that restaurants and otther businesses are beginning to move into the area.

First Baptist Church or Mizpah Tower - now undergoing renovation.  This building, at 215 E. Jefferson Street, was erected as the First Baptist Church, replaced the Central Baptist Church designed by Horatio Nelson White in 1868. The building’s upper stories were originally connected with the adjacent YMCA building to take care of its overflow.  In the 1940s, the connection was closed and the space converted into a regular hotel. Twenty years later, the church took over management, and the Mizpah Tower functioned as apartments and rooms for single women. In 1969, it was named Mizpah, said to mean “temporary rest under the tower.” The building served the First Baptist Church until 1988, when the congregation moved to Jamesville.

The auditorium was last used for 20 months between 1993 and 1994 as Symphony Hall, a rental performance space. The building, which was to be a central element in the package of the failed Avenue of the Arts Project, ultimately was seized by the city for non-payment of taxes. It suffered from a leaky roof and failure of the exterior terra cotta details, both of which resulted in interior damage. The city is aware of the problems at Mizpah and is searching for viable solutions, perhaps as part of a newly promoted but still not fully articulated Cultural Corridor development. In 2001, a state grant funded emergency stabilization work for some terra cotta ornamentation and a complete roof repair.

Gone - Second Olivet Baptist Church, 818 S. West St., Syracuse. 

This church was designed by Horatio Nelson White and completed in 1867. In 1992-93, the congregation of the church nominated the site for local historic designation.  Little subsequent effort was made to restore the church and in 2000 the church claimed the building was too small and restoration would be too expensive. They said they would prefer to raise money to demolish the existing building and, in its place, erect a new church on the site that would better serve their needs. The Landmark Preservation Board denied the church’s application but it was later approved by the City Planning Commission. The congregation was been granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to allow demolition of the building.

In January of 2004 the sanctuary ceiling collapsed and the congregation moved temporarily to St. Lucy's Church on Gifford Street. In November, 2004 two walls of the aging building collapsed. The rest of the building was demolished a few days later.

Conrad Loos Building, Park and Butternut streets, Syracuse. This three-story Romanesque Revival brick commercial building, designed by noted Syracuse architect Archimedes Russell, is slated for demolition. A court challenge by PACNY to the process that allowed a Certificate of Appropriateness to be granted to the owner failed. The corner location is the type favored by modern drugstores and convenience stores, but so far there has been little interest in redevelopment. Thus, the building still stands. Perhaps only through government intervention or the actions of a preservation-minded buyer will the structure be saved.

Former Masonic Temple (former Metropolitan School for the Arts), 318-322 Montgomery St., Syracuse. This Second Renaissance Revival style building  was designed by Gaggin and Gaggin and completed in 1917. It was occupied by the Masons until 1985 and subsequently became home to the Metropolitan School for the Arts. Built of concrete and faced with brick, it is adorned with handsome decoration including an articulated cornice, copper spandrels, pedimented entrances, arched windows and limestone trim. The building was in regular use by the school for the arts until it was partially gutted in advance of the ill-fated Avenue of the Arts development scheme for Montgomery Street.  Since then, it has remained empty, the subject of opposing legal claims. Most recently the Metropolitan Development Foundation has applied for state funds to stabilize the building.

Former Jewish War Veterans’ Post, 2004 E. Genesee St., Syracuse. Local protected site status has been granted to this impressive 1895 mansion at the corner of Westcott and East Genesee streets, but until renovation plans are implemented it is still endangered. A consortium of not-for-profit arts groups has put forward an ambitious plan to transform the building into a multi-use center, but financing for this project remains elusive. It has been five years since it was saved from the wrecking ball. If work does not begin soon, deterioration will only increase and the viability of the property will diminish.

Otisca Building (former Onondaga Brewery, former Ryan’s Consumer’s Brewery Co.), 501-11 Butternut St., Syracuse.   Most of this complex of three-story red brick industrial buildings dates from the Ryan’s Brewery expansion in the 1880s. It was once more ornate, with Beaux Arts decoration and a prominent towered upper story at the corner. Some Beaux Arts medallions are still affixed to the brick facade, giving a hint of how 19th Century industrialists linked industry and art. With the demolition of adjacent buildings for the erection of a large Rite-Aid store, these buildings are now at risk. The owner of the Conrad Loos Building, who has engaged in speculative development with several commercial lots on Butternut, has so far unsuccessfully sought permission from the city to acquire and demolish the property.

Gothic Cottage, 1631 S. Salina St., Syracuse. This rare surviving Gothic cottage was built in the 1850s.  It is part of the South Salina National Register Historic District and remains empty and dilapidated despite announced rehabilitation plans by the city and local neighborhood redevelopment organizations. The building retains its distinctive characteristics including a steeply pitched, cross-gabled roof with pinnacles and pendants, and pointed-arch windows with label molding. Although a neighborhood organization was awarded partial funding for rehabilitation of the property, no repairs were undertaken. It is now near the point of collapse.

The Amos Block - now undergoing renovation.  The Amos Block, at 210-216 W. Water St., is located just southwest of Clinton Square and adjacent to the path of the old Erie Canal. It is listed on the National Register. This old commercial block was empty and dilapidated and, despite its designation, was scheduled for demolition in the 1970s as part of the Chandler Plan, a doomed project that would have turned much of Clinton Square into the urban version of a highway interchange. In recent years, it was best known as the home of the Syracuse Suds Factory, one of the city’s recent microbreweries.  In 1999, Syracuse Suds Factory moved to the former Neal & Hyde Building on South Clinton Street.

Gone - Nathan Breed house, 819 S. West St., Syracuse.  This building was designed in 1882 by architect Nathan Breed, who used it as home and office. It had the distinction of being the oldest home in the city designed by an architect for his own use.  The house was a good local representation of the Italianate style, which was common in the late 19th Century but had few examples left in the city. The building had been close to being razed at least twice since 1990. Its owner saved the historic home both times by having it declared a local protected site and promising to renovate it. 

On the evening of Saturday, October 5th, 2002, a "suspicious" fire severely damaged the Nathan Breed house.  City officials declared it unsafe and it was demolished the following Monday.  See "List of Endangered Historic Sites Loses One" at the top of the page.

The Hotel Syracuse - now undergoing renovation, When the Hotel Syracuse, at 500 S. Warren St., was completed in 1924 it was the city’s premier hotel. Designed by George B. Post & Sons, one of the nation’s foremost hotel designers, it included retail stores at street level, an emergency hospital and 612 rooms with baths. Tennis, squash and handball courts were located on the roof. In the early 1980s, the hotel underwent major renovations including construction of a contemporary tower across the street, a connecting second-level pedestrian bridge and a new ballroom complex. As downtown’s fortunes declined in the 1980s and 1990s, so did those of the Hotel Syracuse. The hotel has had several owners in recent years and twice has gone through bankruptcy proceedings.

Whalan Brothers Funeral Home, 366 W. Onondaga St., Syracuse. This large, imposing shingle-style residence was built circa 1892 for George Whedon (1832–1912).  Al-though the architect is unknown, the plan and many details closely resemble those of the brick residence at 572 West Onondaga St., also built for Whedon, that was designed by Archimedes Russell. In 1989, it was sold at auction for lack of payment of taxes. The house since suffered the stripping of many of its interior architectural details, subsequent neglect and finally abandonment. The carriage house behind the residence burned down in 1999. Nonetheless, much of the grandeur of the building remains in its profile, massing, roof line, chimneys, porch and exterior articulation.

Nineteenth-century block at the SE corner of South Geddes and Gifford (and 1920s bank on NE corner). This fine brick Victorian storefront, with its 1895 date boldly inserted in the gable, was formerly rehabbed as the "Street of Shoppes". The building was targeted for demolition a few years ago but a new buyer may be interested in saving it for a new use. Across Gifford Street is another endangered structure – a 1920s classical bank, originally the Geddes branch of First Trust & Deposit and most recently a Key Bank.

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