is a community born of profound change. Once just aseries of small independent hamlets, the City of Syracuseemerged in the 19th Century as a thriving, cutting edgecommunity forged by innovation and leadership in industry,culture and social activism, and signature architecture. Nestled between the drumlins and waterways first settled by the peopleof the Onondaga Nation, Syracuse quickly rose from a small
agricultural settlement to one of America’s major urban centers.
Syracuse became a national leader in salt production and thisresource helped draw the construction of the Erie Canal directly through the heart of downtown Syracuse. The presence of the
Canal helped to catalyze the City’s economic growth and with
other regional connections including the Genesee Turnpike, theOnondaga Creek, the Oswego Canal, and the New York Centraland the Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western Railroads Syracusequickly became the geographic crossroads of New York State and
the American northeast. Syracuse’s booming economy and the
exchange and incubation of ideas that took place here in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, brought new ventures in businessand engineering. New technologies were invented and producedin Syracuse including development in electronic equipment, thetypewriter, the automobile, and many others.Syracuse also became a capitol city in the abolitionist and
women’s rights movements of the mid
-and late-nineteenthcentury. Syracuse was home to heroes like Reverend JermainLoguen, Gerrit Smith, and Matilda Joslyn Gage and legendary stories like that of the Jerry Rescue. President Abraham Lincolneven made a stop in Syracuse in 1861.
Concurrent with Syracuse’s major economic and cultural growth
was the birth of its architectural heritage including the major works of Horatio White, John Lyman Silsbee, and ArchimedesRussell. Iconic structures like the Gridley Building on ClintonSquare, the White Memorial Building, Crouse College, and theOnondaga County Court House were built in this period andmany of our proudest structures still stand as monuments to thisera of creativity and prosperity.
post-World War II period brought a very different kindof change to Syracuse and other industrial cities of the American northeast. The second half of the 20th Century brought a period of declining population, regional job losses,ill-conceived urban renewal projects, and sprawlingsuburban development. The economic growth of the American south and southeast combined with theoutsourcing of many manufacturing activities overseas, led toa major migration of jobs and company headquarters out of their traditional northeast population centers. Throughout
the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s federal urban renewal initiatives
directed investment into major highway projects thatdecimated neighborhoods and created physical, social, andpsychological barriers, like interstate route 81 in Syracuse,and at the same time facilitated the growth of Americansuburbia. This had the effect of damaging the aesthetic andarchitectural character of our city and providing a system of infrastructure that was designed to maximize investment anddevelopment in outlying suburban areas rather than in theexisting urban core. The era of urban renewal also gave birthto many affordable housing projects that espoused housingmodels that concentrated poverty in large, high-rise facilitiesthat did little to end the vicious cycle of poverty or give hopeto an entire generation of struggling families.Both nationally and here in Syracuse we have seen the effectsof these events. The shifting of jobs and businesses to otherregions, the birth and growth of the suburbs at the expenseof cities, and the degradation of our architectural andenvironmental assets has had dire consequences that weexperience in Syracuse every day. Our city has sufferedthrough decades of profound challenge. In 1950 Syracuse was the 48th largest city in the nation. Syracuse now ranks174th.