Friday, July 22, 2022

Memories of 315 Allen Street from Ione Nicholson Tracy, Remembrances of Things Past

Syracuse, NY. 315 Allen Street, 1911. Undated photo from Ione Nicholson Tracy, Remembrances of Things Past.

Syracuse, NY. 315 Allen Street, 1911. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2015.

Syracuse, NY. 315 Allen Street, 1911. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2015.

Memories of 315 Allen Street from Ione Nicholson Tracy, Remembrances of Things Pas

A favorite street in the Westcott neighborhood is the 300 block of Westcott Street. A lot of neighborhood walkers might not know it since they stop at East Genesee Street and don't venture north. They thus miss some fine houses, including a few designed by Ward Wellington Ward, and the fine and simple shingle-clad house at 315 Allen Street, designed and built by Walter Wicks Nicholson for his family in 1911. We know a lot about this house because Wicks' daughter Ione Nicholson Tracy wrote about growing up in the house in her 1993 memoir Remembrances of Things Past

There have been a few changes to the exterior of the house of the last 110 years. The entrance has lost its  decoration, and between 2015 and 2021 the side trellises of the entrance was removed. The second-story center window is also changed.  But the shingle siding for the most part the house probably looks like it did when built. The shingle siding links it to the Arts and Crafts Movement and especially the Craftsman style championed by Gustav Stickley who had - until just a few years before - lived nearby on Columbus Avenue. Next door to the Nicholson house is a picturesque cottage style house designed about the same time by Ward Wellington Ward (the Roy Carpenter House), and there is another Ward house at 301 Allen Street (that unfortunately has recently been altered)
Syracuse, NY. 315 Allen Street, 1911. Here you see the entrance has been recently striped. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2021

I quote here, Ione Nicholson Tracy's entire account of the house because it evokes so beautifully an earlier time and pace in our neighborhood. Still, in the accounts of children playing we feel something still real and recognizable, albeit without the trolley.
From: Ione Nicholson Tracy, Remembrances of Things Past (Jamesville, NY: Pine Grove Press, 1993), 2-3

“We lived in a big house at 315 Allen Street, Syracuse, New York. It was planned and built to the specifications of my father in 1911. It had three stories, a central hall, small parlor, large living room and dining room, a front pantry and a back pantry, as well as a good sized kitchen. There were seven bedrooms, including two finished on the third floor. We loved playing up there because we found a crawl place from the back attic into the closet of one of the bedrooms. The chimney went up through the rear wall of the front attic, and we could walk around it. A partition in front protected it since the floor did not fit flush to the stones, and we had to be careful not to step in the open space. Great places for hide and seek. My brothers had a punching bag mounted in the front attic which I was too little to reach. The boys always stayed on the third floor when they were home.

Three of the bedrooms on the second floor had wash basins with running water, probably a carry-over from the days when every bedroom had a china wash bowl, pitcher of water, a shaving mug and a slop basin. They were a great convenience and kept the traffic to the one big bathroom down to a minimum. There was an in-house telephone, one of the first floor, one on the second, and I think, one in the garage, and maybe one in the cellar. My friends and I found it added to our fun while playing indoors. 
Mother had a rose garden in the back yard, as well as other flowers, including lots of lilies of the valley. A grape arbor yielded delicious Concord grapes and little sweet red ones. A gardener planted vegetables, including corn in a small area below the back hedge. This section was bordered by currant bushes, and Mother would pay me and the children in the neighborhood a penny a box to pick them every year.
Wicker furniture decorated the large back sitting porch, and above it was a sleeping porch where I slept every summer from the time I was seven or eight years old. No screens, but I don’t recall begin bothered by mosquitoes. 
There were only four houses on our side of the street and four on the other, all toward Lexington Avenue, which ended at Allen Street. At the end of Lexington, towards the east, was a long hill, great for sledding in the winter. Fayette Street, down below the 200 block of Allen, was not yet a street, only trolley tracks. Running east at the bottom of the hill, the tracks turned toward Genesee Street on what is now Ellis Street. At the corner was a shuttle that went up the hill and down again for the people who lived there. It was free and we kids used to ride it up and down the hill. Also at the corner was a small pond full of pollywogs and frogs.
Syracuse, NY. 309 (Roy Carpenter House) and 315 Allen Street, 1911. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

                             Syracuse, NY. 315 Allen Street, detail of dormer, 1911. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Charles Ziegler's Rustic Bungalow on Oak Street at Schiller Park


Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Taber & Baxter, archs., 1915. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2021.

Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Taber & Baxter, archs., 1915. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2021.
Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Taber & Baxter, archs., 1915. Chimney. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2021

Charles Ziegler's Rustic Bungalow on Oak Street at Schiller Park 

by Samuel Gruber

Back in 2019 I wrote about the early 20th-century fashion for houses made - at least in part - of cobbles and field stones. This was not construction of necessity, but rather a pronounced luxury, of going out the way to procure materials to make a city house look rustic.  This was one side effect of the arts & Crafts Movement, or at least of the Craftsman style.

The houses were meant to look like they were built on mountainside or by a burbling brook, but most clients who bought plans and built the buildings lived in cities - with streetcars and automobiles and increasingly dense urban neighborhoods where the one might look from the window of one Craftsman house into the window of another next door or across the street.

One way to avoid this crowding in the city was to build up next to a park. This is what Charles Ziegler (of C. W. Ziegler Son & Dick dry goods) did in 1915 when he built his house on off Oak Street at an entrance to the still-new Schiller Park. The Syracuse Common Council had approved the purchase of the 23.5 acres of “Round Top Park” for a designated public park in 1901 and it’s opening stimulated residential development around its periphery.

Syracuse Herald article about Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. June 25, 1916.

Probably no home builder in the city worked so hard to impart rusticity to his dwelling. He traveled several counties to find the stones for his house, and personally hauled a lot of them back to Syracuse. This effort and the design of the house were celebrated in a feature article in the Syracuse Herald in June 1916 title “Central and Northern New York Searched to Provide Stone for One of City's Most Attractive Bungalows. “The outstanding feature of the house is the stonework of the foundation, chimney and porch, all of which is built of selected cut field stones which was collected under the personal supervision of Mr. Ziegler from all parts of central and northern New York.”On thing that is notable from the article and the accompanying photos is that the front porch has been changed. It has been enclosed and expanded giving the house a much boxier appearance than originally intended.

It seems that while construction of the new house was still in progress Ziegler commissioned architect Ward Wellington Ward to design houses for his two children to be situated nearby on an adjacent lot between his own house and Oak Street and another across the entrance carriageway into the park. These were designed in 1915 and completed soon after creating a Ziegler family compound of three notable Arts & Crafts influenced bungalow houses.


Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Taber & Baxter, archs., 1915. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2021
Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Taber & Baxter, archs., 1915. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2021
Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Enclosed porch. Photo: Zillow 
Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Enclosed porch. Photo: Zillow    

Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. living room with Rookwood tile fireplace. Photo: Zillow
Charles Ziegler House, 1103 Oak St. Rookwood tile fireplace. Photo: Zillow

You can read the entire 1916 article below.  It also includes a detailed description of the layout, decoration and modern utilities of the house.

The Syracuse Herald Sunday morning June 25, 1916

Central and Northern New York Searched to Provide Stone for One of City's Most Attractive Bungalows

Ziegler Has Many Features That Make It Unique

One of the most complete and unique houses in the city is the one owned and occupied by Charles W Ziegler at number 1101 Oak St. It has just been completed. Taber and Baxter were the architects.

Of the bungalow type, the house is set on rising ground at the Oak street entrance to Schiller park. Mr. Ziegler has one of the most beautiful of the local parks for his backyard.

The outstanding feature of the house is the stonework of the foundation, chimney and porch, all of which is built of selected cut fieldstones which was collected under the personal supervision of Mr. Ziegler from all parts of central and northern New York. The quality of the stone is known in the rural communities as “hard heads.” It is granite, gneiss and other kinds of the harder stone that was deposited in this state by the glaciers as part of what the geologists call “boulder till.” Some of these stones were very large and had to be broken up before being brought to this city. Mr. Ziegler toured each Sunday and holiday in search of good specimens of variegated colors and when found had them brought here by automobile trucks and many times brought them himself in the trunk of his car. Some of the stones in the house are from Old Forge, in the Adirondacks, others are from the country adjacent to the Thousand Islands, but the bulk of them were picked up in this and Cayuga County. The man who cut and laid the stone is an excellent workman and has so arranged the coloring that a very artistic piece of work is the result. The quartz, hornblende and mica in the stone sparkles brightly in the sun, giving the appearance of jewels.

Terraced lawn in front

The house is set back about 100 feet from the street and the foundation is about 20 feet above the street level. A terraced lawn in two steps is graded from the street to the house. Some of the shrubs have been set but a rustic wall and drive are still to be built. The entrance to the park is also the entrance to Mr. Ziegler's home for automobiles or horses and the Park Commission is planning the erection of guard posts of the same material that is in the foundation of the Ziegler house to be placed at the edge of Oak street.

The porch, which extends across part of the front and South side of the house has a red Welch quarry tile floor. The steps leading to it are of red Roman brick. In the front there is a roof over the porch, but the side is an open terrace. A coping of cut stone extends around the outside edge and on the South side, the top of the coping is hollowed out and flower boxes set in.

The main entrance to the house is from the front. A vestibule finished in white oak paneling and with closets and drawers for clothing and rubbers leads to the dining and living rooms.

Ground plan from Syracuse Herald article, June 25, 1916.

Living room in mahogany

The living room is finished in mahogany with a beamed and paneled ceiling in the same would. A fireplace of Rockwood pottery tile in green greatly adds to the room. There is a mahogany mantle over the fireplace and a tapestry that extends to the ceiling. Each tile is hand carved. Two built-in bookcases of mahogany with leaded glass doors are located on either side of the east wall of the room. An oriole bay window is placed in the center of the wall. Two sets of French doors in mahogany open from the living room onto the open terrace. The doors and windows all extend to the ceiling. The lighting fixtures are in Roman gold.

Double French doors lead from the living room into the dining room on the north and in the sunroom on the West of the living room. The sun room is equipped with casement windows on three sides and the color scheme of the room is green and white. The tints or blend with the green in a pastoral scene depicted upon a large tapestry placed upon the fourth wall of the room. The green furniture and lamp and the green rug all harmonize with the wall tints.

The dining room is finished in mahogany and the color scheme is Gobelin blue with Tiffany blending. As in all other rooms of the house the walls are painted. The draperies are in golden brown. A feature of the room is a breakfast alcove. Two built-in seats face across a small table. Electric plugs in the baseboard near the table connect with an electric percolator and toaster. The table and seats are in the same finish as the rest of the room. The lighting fixtures are in silver.

Kitchen a modest one

The kitchen is one of the modest kitchens of the city. It is entirely white with a sanitary tile wainscoting six feet high. The range and table are in white enamel and a full complement of cupboards and shells running from floor to ceiling makes the room complete. A California cooler lined with galvanized tin acts as a refrigerator accept in extremely warm weather. A ventilating shaft runs through the cellar wall to the cooler affording a storage place for edibles without the necessity of ice. There is a shoot for wrappings from groceries, etc. that lands from the kitchen to the seller. A hallway containing a refrigerator, broom closet and linen closet built into the wall leads from the kitchen.

The bathroom is in white the floor is tile, white with a blue border in a Roman design. The tub is built in as is the shower over the tub. A white tile wainscoting extends up about 6 feet above the floor. All of the fixtures are white. A bedroom finished in mahogany leads off the same hall that the bathroom uses. A large closet connects with this room. The lighting fixtures are decorative. The color scheme is pink and white.

The second floor contains one bedroom having eight casement windows. A sewing room and a lavatory. The remainder of the floor is used for storage purposes.

White enamel trays

The cellar is equipped with casement windows that open like doors with levers inside. A lavatory with tubs in white enamel, a cold cellar, vegetable seller and furnace complete the house. The windows are so arranged that the seller is very bright.

The windows of the house are puttyless, being set in lead. The hardware is bronze which harmonizes with the mahogany doors and furnishing.

As a whole Mr Ziegler has a house that he may well be proud of. He examined bungalows all over the country before building it and credit must be given to Tabor and Baxter for the design and erection of it is one of the finest homes in the city

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Exemplary Signage at Cortland Rural Cemetery



Exemplary Signage at Cortland Rural Cemetery

By Samuel D. Gruber

(all photos copyright Samuel D. Gruber 2021)

On a walk last week in Cortland’s historic 19th century Rural Cemetery, a 40-acre funerary park off Tompkins Street around which wraps part of the SUNY-Cortland campus, I was impressed by the quality of the historic markers which are spread out across the site, informing visitors about the history of famous and interesting people, the art and symbols of tombstones and mausolea, and even the material of use to make gravestones and the geology that produced them.

The ”Cemetrail” of 20 interpretive signs was created in 2015 , each as a project of the cemetery and students and faculty from SUNY Cortland. An ancillary signage program marks 20 different species of trees that are part of the cemetery arboretum. 


The cemetery was established in 1853 at a time when garden or rural cemeteries were gaining in popularity across the country. Inspired by English country estates, cemeteries were the public parks of the day. Oakwood cemetery in Syracuse was founded a few years later in 1859.  In the generations before suburbanization due to streetcar expansion, so-call rural cemeteries provided access to nature for many city-dwellers. They also provide an opportunity for the well-to-do to show off their success with lavish grave makers, tombs, and mausolea. 

One of the most  interesting signs tells the history of Dr. Lydia Hammond Strowbridge (1830-1908), a doctor, activist for women's rights and a bloomer-wearer.

Another sign tells of the Miller family, of which five members - including four children - died between January and June 1864, probably of typhus.


 At Cortland, the Wickwire mausoleum is the grandest, in keeping with the wealthy family of industrialists which had five houses on nearby Tompkins Street.


The two cemeteries – in Cortland and Syracuse – have many features in common, including tomb types. At Cortland, however, the present-day entrance buildings were not erected until the 1920s. In Syracuse, a grand entrance and office and chapel were built in the third quarter of the 19th century, but since the erection of I-81 and the reorientation of the cemetery to the east, these are now in the rear of the cemetery instead of the front.

The Historic Oakwood Cemetery Preservation Association (HOCPA), in conjunction with SUNY-ESF has been working hard to develop history and nature trails in Syracuse’s grand National Register listed cemetery. I hope that soon there will be physical signs of the quality of those at Cortland, too.

There is a self-guided tour marked trees of our arboretum, also established with help from the college.

You can read the college's summary of the project (here) and a blog written and posted by's Glenn Coin (here).