Sunday, May 10, 2015

Deco Delights: Discount Deco

Syracuse, NY. 501 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015
Syracuse, NY. 508 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015
Deco Delights:  Discount Deco
by Samuel D. Gruber

Often in cities it is the small things that catch the eye, and the small details the create a stimulating streetscape that one can return to again and again with boredom.  Sure, shop signs and windows displays are the main attraction, but often those ever-changing contemproary details are set in fixed architectural frames. I've posted often about Art Deco period and style building in Syracuse. Most of those buildings wanted to stand out - not just fit in. But one of the best legacies of the commercial building boom of the 1920s is the large number of simple vernacular commercial buildings that rise above the ordinary because they were a bit of thought and a bit of simple desecration. These buildings are scattered around the city, but they were most often found clustered on busy thoroughfares, often on trolley lines.  They are an urban version of the early strip mall which began to develop in the interwar period on local highways to serve the first generation of automobile commuters. 
No one has documented these buildings, and they are often remade at the expense of their details or demolished altogether. Several that I remember seeing in the 1990s when I first moved in the 1990s are now gone. The ones I know best are on Westcott Street since I pass them most days. At the southeast corner of Westcott St. and Harvard Pl. is the popular Mom's Diner, which occupies a corner commercial building that has long been a place for local gathering and dining. The names of the establishments have changed, but the popularity of breakfast or lunch with neighbors has not. In the 1930s and 40s this was Whittig's Ice Cream Store, then it became the Westcott Bakery & Ice Cream Store, Chatterbox Cafe, and later the Common Grounds. In recent years Mom's Diner has served up popular diner food, and the Diner is a popular morning meeting place for Westcott regulars young and old. Architecturally, the simple box-like building stands out with its simple and inexpensive aesthetic of flat brick walls enlivened with geometric patterns. 

Syracuse, NY. 501 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015

Across Westcott Street, Asahi Restaurant (#508) and Beer Belly Deli (#510) now occupy space built in the mid-1920s for comemrcial occupants, probably first a plumber and a building contractor. The decoration here is more serious - with fluted applied pilasters, a narrow deco-design frieze and a guarding eagle atop one of the pilasters where the building ends. Next door to the south, filling the in-between space until the Westcott Theater at number #524, is a now much-altered commercial building that originally housed, at least from 1928, the local A & P Grocery Store and the much later the Big M. The top part of the Discount Deco wall and a series of applied pilasters survive, but the windows were altered in the 1990s when the grocery closed and the space was divided. 

Syracuse, NY. Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015
Also on the Eastside are few related 1920s chimerical buildings on East Genesee Street. The Community Folk Art Center is a good example, and two doors up Rothschild's Home Healthcare Center also is in a similar building, but the Deco details has been entirely covered over.  

 Syracuse, NY. Community Folk Art Center, 805 East Genesee Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

 Syracuse, NY. Community Folk Art Center, 805 East Genesee Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

The north side of the 400 Block of Hawley Avenue, on a block just outside the Hawley-Green National Register Historic District has four contiguous buildings of the type, though the original face on one has been either covered over or entirely replaced.  

 Syracuse, NY. 433 Hawley Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015

Syracuse, NY. 445 Hawley Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015

Syracuse, NY. 483 Hawley Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015
Here is another example from the Westside, at the corner of Delaware and Grace Streets, across from the former Delaware Avenue Baptist church. Who knows how long this charming little abandoned building will last?   

Syracuse, NY. Former commercial building at corner of Delaware and Grace Streets. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014.

Syracuse, NY. Former commercial building at corner of Delaware and Grace Streets. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014.

These are just a few surviving examples of what was once a familiar building type. But I'm keeping my eyes open and camera ready to find some more. Are there any in your CNY neighborhood?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CNY Public Art: The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at Syracuse's Billings Park

Syracuse, NY. The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at  Billings Park. photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011

CNY Public Art: The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at Syracuse's Billings Park 
by Samuel D. Gruber  

Among its many public monuments and art, Syracuse boasts a substantial collection of art by women sculptors.  These include the Hamilton White Memorial at Fayette Park and the Kirkpatrick Monument (LeMoyne Fountain) by Gail Sherman Corbett, the Elemental Man by Malvina Hoffman and the bronze Saltine Warrior statue by Luise Kaish at Syracuse University, and the high relief sculpture of the Jerry Rescue Monument at Clinton Square by Sharon BuMann.  There is also an abstract work by Penny Kaplan outside the Everson Museum, and women ceramicists have created murals in the Westcott area.

Perhaps the most famous work by a woman sculptor in Syracuse,The Hiker, located at the south side of Billings Park, goes little mentioned. I venture that today most people who even know the name of the sculptor are not even aware that T. A. Kitson, was a woman. Yet Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson (1871-1932), was a leading artist of her time, and possibly the foremost American woman sculptor of her generation. She made many public monuments throughout the country and at least fifty casts of The Hiker, her best known work, are installed as memorials across the country. 

In 1895, Ruggles Kitson was the first woman to be admitted to the National Sculpture Society. In 1888, at age 17, she won honorable mention at the Salon des Artistes Francais (the youngest woman ever to receive the honor). She was celebrated when she returned to the United States and as a (minor) celebrity asked to comment on everything from art to fashions.  When the Kitsons separated in 1909 (her husband had been her teacher and partner), Alice moved to Farmington, where she maintained a studio until her 1932 death in Boston, Massachusetts.

Syracuse, NY. The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at  Billings Park. photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011

Syracuse, NY. The Hiker dedication plaque at Billings Park. photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011
The Syracuse Hiker at the south end of Syracuse's Billings Park in front of the former Central High School. It represents a Spanish American War soldier and commemorates those who died in that war, the Philippine-American War and the Boxer Rebellion. The statue reminds us of time, much like today, when American forces seemed to be engaged in an unending series of conflicts far from home. Though these were the first wars of American empire, The Hiker represents free-spirited and even carefree individualism rather than the increasingly professionalized militarism of the era. A handsome young soldier - ready for a jungle trek - steps confidently forward.  Ruggles Kitson was appreciated as a woman sculptor who could make manly men.

The first version was installed at the university of Minnesota in 1906.  The bronze cast in Syracuse was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1924.  In stanllatuion postdates the inauguration at the north end of the park of a stone monument dedicated July 15, 1920, known as the Rock of the Marne Monument, engraved with names of some of the local dead of World War I, atop of which stands the figure of an infantryman by sculptor Ronald Hinden Perry. .

The Syracuse Hiker was one of the first placements of the iconic statue, which proliferated around the country after 1921 when the Gorham Manufacturing Company, located in Providence, Rhode Island, bought the rights to the statue, and over the next 44 years cast at least 50 Hiker statues.

The earliest installations of The Hiker were mostly in the northeastern United States, often complementing Civil War Memorials.  Post-World War II statues were installed mostly in the South and West.  The Syracuse statue was recently restored and cleaned. Interestingly, because of the wide distribution of the statues, they have been used to study air pollution over the last century since their original state is known, and in case so is the date of their installation.  Thus conservators and meteorologists can compare deterioration and analysis the effect of acid rain and other pollutants in specific places and over measurable time.

 Syracuse, NY. The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at  Billings Park. photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011

Providence, RI. The Hiker. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2005

Syracuse, NY. The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at Billings Park. photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011 
 Syracuse, NY. The Hiker by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson at  Billings Park. photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011
Billings Park is a small open space at South Salina, South Warren and East Adams Streets; about a third of acre in size. It was once a more prominent space in the city, when central High School was open and when the downtown was more knit to the south of the city along South Salina Street. Today, there is little residential use of the area and there are more parking lots and garages than active commercials centers. The space was formerly Warren Park, named like Warren Street in honor of American Revolutionary War General Joseph Warren. Roger Billings had his carriage factory on the north side of Adams Street across from the park from 1841 to 1859;(where the recently constructed bus terminal is now) and he helped improve the park  with help from fellow citizens Richard W. Jones, George Ostrander and George Herman. The provided new landscaping, walkways and a central fountain, and the park was dedicated by Mayor William Stewart, August 24, 1867. 

For more on Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson see:
Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, 1990. American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1990), pp 102-105.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Westcott Neighborhood Murals: A Primer on a Community's Artwork

Syracuse, NY. Boom Babies Mural on Harvard Pl. at Westcott St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse, NY. Boom Babies Mural on Harvard Pl. at Westcott St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse, NY. "Heart of the Neighborhood," community mosaic Mural on Harvard Pl. at Westcott St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Westcott Neighborhood Murals: A Primer on a Community's Artwork
by Samuel D. Gruber

Westcott Street has been hopping this summer - with lots of street life at the cafes, restaurants, the new bakery and the Westcott Theater, a popular contemporary music venue.  The Save the Rain Project closed the street some days and caused dislocation, but it is now passed and finally the painted crosswalks have been replaced   Life on the street is good.

Westcott Street - or the "Westcott Nation" as it still sometimes called, is known visually for its murals - the biggest collection of exterior public painted and mosaic wall decoration in the city.  Compared to the mural programs in places like Philadelphia, or even on 45th Street in Seattle's Wallinford neighborhood, this is small potatoes...but the neighbors of Westcott are proud and involved in their murals, so they are not to be taken lightly.  In almost every way this a poplar art, made and promoted by many of the people who witness the murals everyday.  

Thus, I was surprised to find that there is no handy guide to the Westcott wall art.  So here is an introduction: 

The Boom Babies Mural (above), on south wall of 489 Westcott St., is one of the most popular in the neighborhood.  It was painted in 2002 by Michael Swatt and replaced an earlier work created in the 1990s.  Both of the murals utilized a flat pattern language of advertising graphics and poster art to create identification with and nostalgia for past stylish decades, recreated in the vintage and exotic fashions  offered by Boom Babies owner and mural sponsor Lorraine Koury.   The first Boom Babies mural inspired others,  initiating a what has become a tradition of mural painting in the neighborhood.

Syracuse, NY. "Heart of the Neighborhood," community mosaic Mural on Harvard Pl. at Westcott St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber
Across the street at the rear of 501 Westcott Street (SE corner of Harvard Pl) facing east, is the 6' x 8' mosaic tile mural “Heart of the Neighborhood,”  designed by SU professor and former Westcott Neighborhood Association board member Marisa Temple and created by community residents,   as part of a project by the Neighborhood Association and begun at the Westcott Street Fair in 1998.  The mural was installed in 1999.

Syracuse, NY. "Peace by Piece," mosaic at Petit Library. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Another related mosaic mural was installed on the east wall of Petit Library in 2011.  This work was a project of local artist and teacher Ann Cofer; Ed Smith K-8 School art teacher Mary Lynn Mahan; and students from Ed Smith School.  The mosaic mural, is called Peace by Piece, and represents white doves against an abstract background. It is inspired by a paper cut work by Matisse; Polynesia, the Sky.  Cofer and Mahan adapted Matisse's design into shapes the students could make with single or groups of tiles.    About 175 students from grades three to eight worked on the mosaic during the 2010-11 school year.  New tiles were created, and these were mixed with left over tiles from the 1999 mural on Harvard Place.  The library was an active participant in the process, as was the Syracuse Public Art program and the Westcott East Neighborhood Association which had sponsored the previous mosaic.  The new tiles were filed in a kiln at Syracuse University.  The mural which was made by gluing the tiles onto cement boards and was installed by city employees.  It was unveiled on September 24, 2011.  [see: Greg Mason, "Pieces Linked to Make Mosaic," The Post-Standard / Neighbors City (November 10, 2011).

 Syracuse, NY. Community mural by Michael Moody at Westcott and South Beech Streets.   Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Local artist Michael Moody was commissioned by the Westcott East Neighborhood Association in 1997 to paint a mural.  The mural was developed out of a much more comprehensive project of community involvement and planning aimed to revive the Westcott Commercial District.  The scene represents neighborhood residents, including Tony DeLuca, long-time resident and proprietor of Abdo's grocery store (and father of most recent owner Ron DeLuca), who died the year the mural was completed.  Abdo's,  operated by the DeLuca family since 1936, was recently sold to a new owner, and the name will be changed.

Syracuse, NY.  Seven Rays Landscape mural by Jeff Bowe (destroyed), painted in 1990.

In 1990 Jeff Bowe painted an expansive, fantastic and idyllic landscape on the side of the Saven Rays bookstore, long a destination counter-culture business on Westcott Street.  Part of Bowe's work was destroyed during repair of structural damage which required removal a large section of the work. 

In response, in 2012 a committee of the Westcott Area Cultural Coalition, the same organization that oversees the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, began searching for an artist for a new mural on the north wall of the building that now houses the Asahi Japanese Restaurant and Beer Belly Deli.  In preparation for the project the Coalition had asked residents of Westcott to answer the question “What does Westcott mean to me?” Artist Alex Biegler’s design was selected through an RFP process. Biegler, is a Texas native and graduate of Syracuse University. The new mural, completed in 2013, was funded by a grant from the Cultural Resource Council (Now CNY Arts) and the owner of the building. 

 Syracuse, NY.  Alex Biegler at work on Westcott mural.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2013)

Syracuse, NY. Westcott mural by Alex Biegler (2013). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

In presenting the design, Biegler wrote "the mural aims to take a universal approach by discussing the idea of community itself.  This will serve both to confirm and challenge the public by providing a mirror of what they already value and connecting this value to its importance with the past, present, and future of the earth."  True, this statement is pretty vague...but still in one way at least it gets to the heart of the subject matter.  The mural present idealized views - silhouettes - of 139 natural forms, mostly referring to various species of tree, birds and beetles.  One can view these a community of related living forms, or a matrix related visual images.  Enclosing each silhouette in a box, however, recalls not a natural community - but an artificial one - that consists of the pinned specimens of entomology class. But the grid also recalls the grid of the Westcott Neighborhood, with each specimen inhabiting its own little block.

Syracuse, NY.  Westcott mural by Alex Biegler (2013).  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

The 70 feet by 14 feet mural consists of three sections: an inner circle, a second circle, and an outer section surrounding the two inner circles.  Within the second circle are a series of silhouettes (the red squares) of natural organisms (plants, birds, bugs). There are no repeating pattern.  Each of 139 different organisms appears once.  Here is list of all the organisms silhouetted in the mural - can you identify them all?

1. Box Elder

2. Red Maple
3. Silver Maple
4. Sugar Maple
5. Sweet Birch
6. River Birch
7. Gray Birch
8. Hornbeam
>9. Hackberry
10. Eastern Redbud
11. Fringetree
12. Flowering Dogwood
13. American Beech
14. White Ash
15. Green Ash
16. Eastern Red Cedar
17. Sweet Gum
18. Tulip Poplar
19. Sweetbay Magnolia
20. Black Gum
21. American Sycamore
22. Eastern Cottonwood
23. Wild Plum
24. Black Cherry
25. White Oak
26. Scarlet Oak
27. Pin Oak
28. Chestnut Oak
29. Red Oak
30. Black Oak
31. Black Willow
32. Sassafras
33. Basswood
34. Speckled Alder
35. Smooth Alder
36. Shadbush Serviceberry
37. Allegheny Serviceberry
38. Red Chokeberry
39. Black Chokeberry
40. Sea Myrtle
41. Buttonbush
42. Sweet Pepperbush
43. Silky Dogwood
44. Gray Dogwood
45. Red-osier Dogwood
46. Witchhazel
47. Winterberry
48. Virginia Sweetspire
49. Marsh Elder
50. Spicebush
51. Wax Myrtle
52. Northern Bayberry
53. Common Ninebark
54. Beach Plum
55. Fragrant Sumac
56. Dwarf-winged Sumac
57. Smooth Sumac
58. Staghorn Sumac
59. Swamp Rose
60. Silky Willow
61. Elderberry
62. Arrowwood
63. Nannyberry
64. Black Haw
65. Cranberry Bush
66. Blue Star, Canada
67. American bittern
68. Blue-winged warbler
69. Brown thrasher
70. Bullfrog
71. Common merganser
72. Common yellowthroat
73. Double-crested cormorant
74. Eastern chipmunk,
75. Eastern cottontail,
76. Grasshopper,
77. Great snowy egret
78. Green hero
79. Laughing gull
80. Limpki,
81. Mallard
82. Marsh wren
83. Mourning dove
84. Muskrat
85. Mute swan
86. Oriole
87. Painted turtle
88. Red-bellied woodpecker
89. Red-tailed hawk
90. Red-winged blackbird
91. Song sparrow
92. Tree frog
93. Tufted Titmouse
94. Virginia rail
95. Willow flycatcher
96. Wood duck
97. Crowned Night-heron
98. Yellow warbler
99. Black Bear
100. Bobcat
101. Canadian Lynx
102. Eastern cougar
103. eastern coyote
104. Grey fox
105. Grey wolf
106. Moose
107. Red Fox
108. White Tailed Deer
109. Allegheny Wood rat
110. American Marten
111. Beaver
112. Mink
113. Raccoon
114. River Otter
115. Striped Skunk
116. Diamond backed terrapin
117. Brown Bullhead Catfish
118. White Catfish
119. Channel Catfish
120. Ocean Run Alewife
121. Blueback Herring
122. Hickory Shad
123. Eastern Chick Beetle
124. Cottonwood Borer
125. Big Dipper Firefly
126. Net-Winged Beetle
127. American Carrion Beetle
128. Solider Beetle
129. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
130. Oyster Mushroom
131. Hen of the Woods
132. Earth Worm
133. American Bumble Bee
134. Box Elder Bug
135. Monarch Butterfly
136. Tent Caterpillars
137. Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle
138. Karner Blue Butterfly
139. Nine Spotted Lady Bug

 More Westcott walls await. It is time to start planning the next mural.

Syracuse, NY.  Westcott Street  walls await murals.  photos: Samuel D. Gruber

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Deco Delights: Sears Building Awaits a Better Future - or Demolition

Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

Deco Delights: The 1929 Sears Building Awaits a Better Future - or Demolition

Most of my posts so far about Art Deco buildings in Syracuse have shown buildings still in use that contribute much aesthetically and economically to the community.  This post brings attention back to the Sears Building at 1300 South Salina Street, one of the grand Deco buildings of the period, but one that has mostly sat empty since Sear moved to the suburbs in 1975.  The building sits amid mostly vacant land just minutes south of Downtown.  Much of this area has been declared "brownfields" as despite grants awards last year still awaits cleanup and development.  The Sears buildings could be central to any future for the area - though more likely any developer would want to tear it down and start afresh. 

When the store opened it was major news in all the local papers.  And the coverage tells us what was innovative about the store and its location.  From The Syracuse Herald (October 2, 1929):
Officials of the Sears, Roebuck Co. are unusually pleased with the location, because they are eager always to consider it from the viewpoint of the customer and his convenience. S. Salina St. is undoubtedly the main boulevard in the city and is easily accessible from everywhere. The parking facilities are of the very best. The structure was started in the spring of this year.

It is a three-story building of white face brick and all-steel construction. A tower surmounts the building proper. The entire building may be said to be composed of small shops — each a little store in itself, making shopping very convenient.  The lighting system is unusually adequate. The day lamps lend a sunshiny atmosphere to the entire store. No expense has been spared to make the store complete in every way. Every modern convenience and mechanical device has been introduced, including a refrigeration plan to cool the water, lights to illuminate every corner, wide aisles, an excellent restroom and soda fountain,free parking spaces, free tire service station and other facilities.
Some of the history of the building and the issues confronting its survival are provided on the blog/website You Are the Mayor which focused on abandoned buildings.   The Sears buildings was built and opened in 1929, and despite the depression that began just weeks later, it managed to survive as a major retail center until the 1970s, when so much commerce followed (mostly) white customers to the suburbs - and our present-day mall culture began. 

You Are the Mayor links to the October 2, 1929 full-page feature article in the Syracuse Journal announcing the store's grand opening, Sears Roebuck was committed to serving the local community.
"In order to be of real service to the neighborhood in which Sears Roebuck & Co. have opened this new store in Syracuse, the company has made special preparations to provide those necessities and conveniences which will serve to make this retail store a neighborhood center." "It is hoped the store will be used as a meeting place where friends may wait for each other upon appointment. For the convenience of customers, besides the free automobile park for the convenience of store shoppers, there will be places where baby carriages may ample and well appointed rest rooms for women, a soda fountain luncheonette, where either right lunches or well-prepared meals may be had, and other conveniences which will serve to make the store real useful to the entire neighborhood as well as a place where all items usually secured in a department store may be found."

Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

 Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

The new store was the most up-to-date department store imaginable, with event modern convenience.  But most popular of all was its location south of the downtown, with "huge amounts" and "unlimited" free parking to satisfy the new demands of an increasingly automobile-centered consumer base.  The language used to describe the location and free parking this 1929 description is very similar to language used to promote new shopping malls in the post- World War II era, and the large enclosed malls from the 1960s on.    From The Syracuse Herald (October 2, 1929):
Upon interview, J. M. Barker, eastern regional manager, said: "We are more than pleased with the site selected in Syracuse For our new store. It measures up to every requirement of the company and I don*t believe we could-Have chosen more fortunately." "The present day tendency is to establish stores away from the congested district" continued Mr, Barker. "A few years ago, this idea would have been termed absurd but in this modern day of congested traffic and the advent of the automobile age, this plan is the most plausible. Shoppers do not like to drive through a veritable maelstrom to shop. They want to reach their destination as quickly and as easily as possible. That is why we selected the location at S. Salina and W. Raynor Sts." "Too, the site here affords excellent parking facilities. It has always been a firm policy of our company to provide free parking space for the customers. Here we have accommodations for a huge number of cars. Stalls Are marked off and a uniformed attendant will be on duty at all times to assist in the parking of the cars. A Free tire service station is maintained on the grounds as an added feature.
The trend toward moving large retail away from the congested downtown, had in fact already begun in the late 1930s.  It was just starting when the Depression hit, so ti was not until the new building boom of the 1950s that it begun again, this time coordinated with - or at least facilitated by -the massive construction of suburban residential developments hurried into post-war construction to meet pent-up demand, and the newly planned Eisenhower-era highways.  So in many respects it is a direct line from the 1929 Sears on South Salina to the Carousel Mall of 1990.

Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

Today, the Sears Building sits in the middle of what has been dubbed the The South Salina Street Gateway area (brownfields), bounded by Taylor Street on the north, Kennedy Street on the south, State Street on the east, Midland Avenue, Cortland Street, and Oneida Street on the west, and covers approximately 113 acres.  In 2012 Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner Unveiled Brownfield Redevelopment Plans for the area. 

Their announcement stated:
The 113-acre South Salina Street Gateway area is located between downtown and the southern portion of the City, and is ripe for commercial and residential growth. This area is a gateway between Downtown Syracuse and several residential neighborhoods. The completed plan for the South Salina Street Gateway BOA provides a revitalization vision for an area consisting of 17 known brownfield sites and 29 additional vacant or underutilized sites. The South Salina Street Revitalization Plan calls for the creation of an urban core consisting of commercial and residential mixed-use development, including retail and service shops, and a possible expansion of public park space. The plan presents opportunities for job creation, improved urban design, and long-term area-wide revitalization.
I'm not sure if anything has happened since - I have not heard much since of an "urban core consisting of commercial and residential mixed-use development, including retail and service shops, and a possible expansion of public park space" - but would glad to learn what is going on (or not). Time for an update from City Hall?  This area is too critical to the city's future to ignore. When I find out more, I'll update this post.  

Let's not have the very important issues of I-81, the Inner Harbor and (yes) Destiny's hotel plans suck all the air of discussion, planning and real progress in the city's distressed neighborhoods. 

 Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

 Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

Syracuse, NY. Former Sears, Roebuck Co. Store, 1300 S. Salina St (1929).  Photo: Samuel Gruber July 2014

See some posts on other Deco Delights here:

Former First Trust & Deposit Wolf Street Office  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Northside Treasures: Baumer Candle Company (811 N. Alvord Street)

 Syracuse, NY. Baumer Candle Company, 811 N. Alvord St.  Charles Colton, architect, 1887.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Syracuse, NY. Baumer Candle Company, 811 N. Alvord St.  Charles Colton, architect, 1887.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Northside Treasures: Baumer Candle Company (811 N. Alvord Street)
by Samuel D. Gruber

Last summer, my colleague Bruce Harvey and I carried out a Historic Resources Survey for the City of Syracuse of the former village of Salina, the city's oldest neighborhood.  The report consists of an historical overview of the area, a review of historic maps and other documents, and a careful review of all the streets and significant buildings within an area about 10 x 10 blocks, from Lodi Street to Grant Avenue and from Kirkpatrick Street to Hiawatha Boulevard.  The area is centered on Washington Square, and covers all of the grid plan envisions by James Geddes when the village was first laid out in 1798 (not all streets were opened at that time).  The area contains a wealth of old, historic and distinguished buildings including many of finest 19th-century residences in the city, three important 19th-century churches, and a smattering of institutional and comemrcial buildings erected as the neighborhood changed from in the decades after the Civil War. 

The report, Vol. I of which can be found here, also contains in Vol II recommendations for the listing of twenty properties on the National Register of Historic places, though there are strong arguments for the entire area to be designated an Historic District based on the integrity of its original plan, it rich history associated with the salt, brewing and candles industries, and the distinction of many of its buildings.  Much of this value  was noted by local historians and architect in the 1970s, but little was subsequently done to protect this heritage.  It is to the City's credit that now attention is focused on the area's physical maintenance and social revitalization.  Now homes to a diverse population including many new immigrant groups the area deserves stabilization and improvement.   

Last summer I featured a small number of notable buildings in the area on this blog. These include the First Trust & Deposit Wolf Street Office, the H. A. Moyer Automobile Factory, , Zett Brewing Traces on Danforth and Lodi Streets, the Avery-Burton House, and the Catherine Murray House. This summer I will continue to do do.  I encourage my readers to walk, bike and drive in this area.  It is close to Downtown, the Regional Market and ballpark, and (yes!), the Destiny mall.  You'll will be well rewarded.  

One of my favorite buildings in the area if the Baumer Candle Factory built in 1887, a four-story brick factory that dominates the 800 block of North Alvord Street, looming over the neighboring wood-frame residential building.  This is one of the finest and most decorative nineteenth-century industrial buildings in the region.  A newspaper article of February 20, 1887 about new buildings designed by leading architect Charles E. Colton announced that  “An extensive three story brick factory building for Francis Baumer will be begun on March 1st in Alvord street, near Kirkpatrick street. Dawson & Carr are to the mason builders and John Homer, the carpenter. The building will cost $7,000” [ “Lots of Building: Some of the New Structures to be Put Up This Year,” The Sunday Herald (Feb.  20, 1887]

Syracuse, NY. Baumer Candle Company, 811 N. Alvord St.  Charles Colton, architect, 1887.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

 Syracuse, NY. Baumer Candle Company, 811 N. Alvord St.  Charles Colton, architect, 1887.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Colton was one of the city's leading architects at the turn of the 20th century, best known for City Hall, but designer scores of houses, churches and commercial buildings throughout the region. On the North Side he also designed the Grant School on Second North Street. He was educated in the public schools of Syracuse and was engaged in various enterprises before he entered the architectural office of Archimedes Russell in 1873, to whose style Colton owed much. Three years later he established his own architectural offices.  When Colton died in 1914, he was hailed as "the most prominent architect in the city at the time."

Syracuse, NY. Baumer Candle Company, 811 N. Alvord St.  Charles Colton, architect, 1887.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

 A Little Candle History  

After salt and beer, the third prominent industry in the former Village of Salina, was candles
(from Historic Resources Survey: Washington Square Neighborhood):
Like the breweries and the cooperage businesses, the production of candles for religious uses was dominated by German immigrants. Anton Will was an immigrant from Bavaria; in the early 1850s, he developed processes for producing beeswax candles that were of a suitable quality to be used in Catholic masses, and created his candle business in 1855. Anton’s wife, Rosina, carried on the company after Anton’s death by suicide in 1866; in 1875, she married Christian Eckerman, who took part in the leadership of the firm which then changed names to the Eckerman and Will Candle Company.

At the same time that Anton Will was establishing his business, Francis Baumer, another Bavarian immigrant, also started making liturgical candles in the Washington Square area. Will’s business grew to the point that he built this large, four story brick factory building on North Alvord Street, designed by noted Syracuse architect Charles Colton and erected in 1887.

On the Vose map of 1892 the factory is called the Phoenix Candle company, which according to Boyd's Syracuse City Directory of 1894 was managed by Baumer.  By 1924 the factory is labeled as “Will & Baumer Candle Factory.”

In 1896, Baumer merged his candle company with the Eckerman & Will Candle Company to form the Will & Baumer Candle Company. In 1903, Will & Baumer moved its offices to what is now the corner of Park Street and Buckley Road on the Syracuse-Liverpool border, and built its factory complex in 1912; the company remains in business though now located in Tennessee
As described in Historic Resources Survey: Washington Square Neighborhood
The North Alvord Street façade is essentially rectangular, divided into three vertical bays.  The façade is surmounted by a slightly higher attic extension, one bay deep that is covered by a complex hipped roof, with three pyramid hipped roofs joined in one. The end bays are articulated like applied corner towers.  From a distance, the façade and the roof line are suggestive of a church or public building. 

The mass of the building is divided in two unequal horizontal masses.  The ground level is articulated as a base into which is inserted to the east an open passage for loading.  Across the rest of the façade are three bays, now closed, that may also have been for loading and transport directly to the street.  These bays are divided by piers alternating stone and brick – the courses deliberately of different thicknesses for visual effect.  The brick sections are further decorated with applied molded terracotta plaques with floral decoration.  The piers carry metal beams – probably steel - which serve as lintels for the bays, and help carry the weight of the masonry of the other floors.  Similar beams carried on slender metal (iron?) columns extend for the entire depth of the building on the east side, to create an cover passage, open on the side by the colonnade.

The top three stories are articulated as a single block.  Finer brick is used for the façade, which is given a variety of window types and sizes, with more full arches.  The building sides are articulated with even rows of tall rectangular four-over-four sash windows set in slightly arched openings with simple stone sills. Windows diminish in height with each story.  The east side of the main building block has three rows of fourteen windows.  The west side has fewer, with only one window per level in the corner “tower” – which appears to house an interior stair.

The façade center bay projects slightly.  It is emphasized by two large arched windows on the second floor, four rectangular windows with transoms on the third floor, and four smaller arched windows on the fourth floor.  Decorative molded brick or terracotta is used in horizontal bands between each floor.  The side bays have two rectangular windows each on the second floor, two arched windows on the third floor, and three arched windows on the fourth floor.

A second slightly lower brick wing of unknown date is added to the rear of the original building and an even later side wing is added to the east of this, creating a still narrow L-plan for the entire complex.  Main entry to the site is from North Alvord Street. 


“Charles Erastus Colton,” Syracuse Then and Now online at  ( Accessed Sept. 15, 2013) [n.b. the site gives the wrong address for the Baumer factory, listing it on North Salina St instead of North Alvord]

 “Lots of Building: Some of the New Structures to be Put Up This Year,” The Sunday Herald (Feb.  20, 1887].

Samuel D. Gruber and Bruce G. Harvey, Historic Resources Survey: Washington Square Neighborhood Submitted to the City of Syracuse, September, 2013.