Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Most Beautiful Houses: Mayor Stephens' Highland Avenue Row

Syracuse, NY.  Lyman Stephens House, 213 Highland Avenue (c. 1856). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  Lyman Stephens House, 213 Highland Avenue (c. 1856). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  Lyman Stephens House, 213 Highland Avenue (c. 1856). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
The Most Beautiful Houses: Mayor Stephens' Highland Avenue Italianate Row
by Samuel D. Gruber


I recently wrote of some pretty Queen Anne style houses on North McBride Street in the Hawley-Green National Register Historic District near James Street. On the other side of that major artery are also still many notable and beautiful 19th-century houses, some of which are in the locally protected Sedgewick-Highland-James Preservation District.

Though most of the great 19th-century mansions of James Street were torn down in the 1950s and 1960s, but just a block north of James Street on the north side of Highland Avenue between Graves and Oak Streets, is another near-contemporary stretch of street laid out in the 19th century with its striking row of four impressive Italianate mid-19th century houses intact. Today, this block is part of the southwest-northeast axis for the Sedgewick-Huighland-James district. Highland Avenue is the district's oldest developed portion. 

Lyman Stephens, Mayor of Syracuse, 1855
The row is anchored by the Lyman Stephens House at 213 Highland Avenue. Built c. 1856, one year after Stephens served as Syracuse mayor (1855), it is one of the finest remaining pre-Civil War mansions in Syracuse. The building's form and massing are in the Italianate villa style, but the house also shows the influence of the contemporary Romanesque Revival. There is a corbel table beneath the wide, bracketed eaves, and the use of some Romanesque style round-headed windows.  Inside, the house is said to contain intricate plasterwork detail. 

Stephens, who was a prosperous salt manufacturer and Mayor of Syracuse in 1855, also built the three houses in 1874 for his daughters and their families immediately to the west of his own residence. 
Syracuse, NY.  209 Highland Avenue (1874). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  The near-twin houses of 207 and 209 Highland Avenue (1874). Note the matching towers. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  207 Highland Avenue (1874). Porch added later (c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  207 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  207 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  209 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added c. 1900)). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016

These three homes are more in keeping with a version of the Italian villa style popular in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The house at 209 Highland retains the original entry porch, but the two (originally) nearly identical houses to the west have been modified with larger porches added at the turn of the 20th-century.  The porch at #205 is especially impressive. it was applied with skill, so the two styles go well together. As a place to live, 207 was probably much-improved with that early 20th-century porch. One can imagine the evening spent there watching the world go by (and at least one resident was relaxing in the shade of the porch when I took a walk on this block a few days ago). The addition of ample porches coincided with improvement and expansion of street paving and the creating of permanent sidewalks, all of which encouraged walking strolling and perambulation at any pace. 

The westernmost house in the row is currently vacant and in need of repair, but it is, according to neighbors, scheduled for renovation.  The use of arch keystones with decorative reliefs is shared in all three 1870s houses and is one of many indications that they were built together.


Syracuse, NY.  205 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added later). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016.
Syracuse, NY.  205 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added later). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016.






1 comment:

  1. I like this kind and look of houses. Very historical and culture-rich. I hope I my house and lot in Bacolod will look like this in the future.

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