Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Craftsman Street in Syracuse: The 200 Block of Strong Avenue

Syracuse, NY. 200 block of  Strong Avenue, east side looking north. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.
Syracuse, NY. 208 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 217 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 200 block of  Strong Avenue, west side looking north. The houses on the west side are all variations on the same design. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011.

A Craftsman Street in Syracuse: The 200 Block of Strong Avenue

by Samuel D. Gruber

In these days of corona virus induced isolation, there is still the opportunity for most housebound people to get out for a walk in their neighborhoods. Lack of snow and foliage this time of year offers a great chance to take a good look at houses. Near my house, one for my favorite blocks is the 200 block of Strong Avenue. Part of its appeal is its irregular alignment - a testament to its earlier role as part of an original Onondagan path that pre-dated Syracuse’s European settlement. It was subsequently transformed into Strong Avenue, which was continued directly to South Beech and Lodi Streets. 

Strong Avenue is the southern continuation of South Beech Street. As an historic road, several houses had been built along it prior to the development of development tracts. The block of 100 Strong Avenue lying north of Euclid Avenue, had two houses erected on its east side by 1892 map, as indicated on the map of that time. By 1908, most of the east side of the 100 block was fully built.
 
Stong Avenue, then still considered part of South Beech Street, represented in Vose Syracuse Atlas, 1892.
Stong Avenue represented in G. M. Hopkins Syracuse Atlas, 1908.
Stong Avenue represented in G. M. Hopkins Syracuse Atlas, 1924. Section 24.
 

The 200 block,which extends diagonally from Euclid Avenue to Lennox Avenue, was not platted even in 1892, when adjacent Westminster Tract and other surrounding areas were already laid out. It was entirely developed after 1908. We do not know if the street, part of the Mary Barber Tract, was planned and built all at once by one developer, as was nearby Euclid Terrace, which was also part of Berber's parcel. Nonetheless, the block is uniform in house type. It contains a large number and some of the finest examples of the “Craftsman Bungalow” type of house on the Eastside, and perhaps in the city. These houses are aligned to the grid, which was not platted until after 1908, and does not align with the earlier diagonal street. The resulting impression from the street is of a staggered, or saw-tooth, arrangement of houses.


Syracuse, NY. 200 block of  Strong Avenue,  looking north. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.

In Syracuse, the Craftsman ideal made popular by Gustav Stickley - who lived just a few blocks away - was transformed into several popular house types, all of which were being offered in a wide range of builder’s catalogs by 1908. Even Stickley was not entirely original. He and his designers adapted current popular house  designs and published them in the Craftsman Magazine. These were mostly affordable simple-to-build single-family houses that were devoid of non-essential decoration and variation and exuded an intimate and homey feel. Over all they were square or rectangular in plan, two-story, frame houses.

By the teens and twenties, most such houses were built on cast block foundations and used a mix of standard wooden clapboard and small shingles for exterior cover.


This design published in 1903 already suggests some of Stickley's popular motifs. Photo: Daniel D. Reiff, Houses from Books (Penn State Univ. Press, 2001).
The shed dormer over an extended front porch, published by Stickley in 1905, came to epitomize the Craftsman Cottage in Syracuse. Photo: Daniel D. Reiff, Houses from Books (Penn State Univ. Press, 2001).

Syracuse, NY. 220 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 228 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 217 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

The mix of materials gave each house a greater variety of pattern and texture, and the differences could be accentuated by using different colors for bottom and top levels, as can still be seen in the treatment of 217 Strong. This visual stimulation, however, has been sadly much reduced by the residing of houses in uniform aluminum or vinyl. The most egregious case of "vinylization" took place a few years ago at 202 Strong Ave. See the before and after pictures below.

Syracuse, NY. 202 Strong Avenue, before re-siding with vinyl. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011.
Syracuse, NY. 231 Strong Avenue, after re-siding with vinyl. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

The Craftsman cottages, which we see on Strong Avenue, merged first and second floors using high and steep side gable roofs which were then opened with a wide dormer across the house facade. This roof arrangement, and the always-present generous ground story front porch, gave these houses a strong horizontal appearance, recalling contemporary Prairie School designs, but also suggested a more fluid spatial relation between the outdoor and indoor space. Unlike the more familiar low bungalows, this roof type really gave each house a full second story.

Syracuse, NY. 200 block of  Strong Avenue, east side looking south. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.

Sometimes, as at 226 Strong Ave., the front and rear roof sections were of equal size and pitch, and then both given large shed dormers expanding the upper story space. These angles are less steep than what ones seems in contemporary "Dutch Revival" houses (of which I've written about), but they do stand apart from the common Craftsman and Prairie style buildings which emphasis straight and often horizontal line.

At 221 Strong Ave. another variation has the shed dormers rise from a "Dutch" style gambrel roof, which are then set beneath a standard side gable roof. Many variations can be found in house catalogs. This one still uses some Craftsman-inspired elements on its from porch, keeping the house related to its neighbors.


Syracuse, NY. 221 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

Craftsman style cottage call "the Lancaster" from the Bennett Homes catalog.

The interiors of these houses were simple but included relatively open plans on the ground floor - especially linking living and dining areas as can be seen on the plan presented form a Bennett Homes catalog. Finishes were simple and favored dark woods. The exteriors were sided with a mix of shingle and clapboard, or covered entirely in shingle, reminiscent of the early cedar shake and shingle style of the late 19th century, but on a much more intimate scale.

By the second decade of the 20th century the term bungalow was being used very loosely to encompass a wide range of simple house types, which might be called “semi-bungalow” or “Craftsman bungalows.”

Syracuse, NY. 230 Strong Avenue. Here the front porch has been partially enclosed and the entrie exterior given a uniform aluminum siding.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 220 Strong Avenue. This form is similar to what we see at number 230, but the ways in which the front dormer meets the roof is different. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 227 Strong Avenue. Here, instead of the shed dormer, the house is given gabled dormer. Otherwise the house is very similar to number 220 and 230. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.
Syracuse, NY. 231 Strong Avenue, before residing with vinyl. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2007.
Syracuse, NY. 231 Strong Avenue, after residing with vinyl. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 235 Strong Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.


At the south end of the street where Strong Avenue meets a widened Lennox Ave, is one of the prettiest houses on the street, but one somewhat out of keeping with the others. It is a small  picturesque English-cottage style house that occupies a small irregularly shaped corner lot. The  two-and-a-half story gable-front residence has shed dormers on both north and south parts of the roof, and a continuous brick chimney that rises the full height through the apex of the steeply sloped roof. More houses of this type, which was popular in the 1920s, can be found on Euclid Terrace an on Westminster Avenue. These modest English cottages are an Anglophile's alternative to the large timber-framed Tudor mansions also popular at the time.

So if you are walking in the Westcott area, take a look at this block of Strong Avenue. Alternatively, look out for similar houses in your neighborhood!




No comments:

Post a Comment