Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Levi S. Chapman House: A Victory for Vinyl?

 Levi S. Chapman house in 1997.  Note upper stories and decorative roof tiles. Photo: S. Gruber.

Weekend work proceeds at 321 Westcott Street.  Here are views from February (top) and April (bottom).   Note the decorative windows in the upper dormers were removed prior to this renovation, but the small window over the porch has been enlarged. Photos: S. Gruber.

The historic Levi S. Chapman House at 321 Westcott Street, a great big pile of an 1890s house near East Genesee Street,  seems to be losing a battle with modern materials - as its absentee landlord changes windows and covers its century old decorative shingle and clapboard with white vinyl siding.  
A lot of work has been going on at the house - always on weekends.  Old trees have been cut, the last bits of slate roof shingles have been cast down, and gradually the vinyl has crept around three sides of the house. 

The house - indeed this whole 300 and 400 block of Westcott - should be part of an historic district - but none of us neighbors has ever gotten organized enough to research and put this forward.  Perhaps it is not too late.  I hope the research behind my recent walking tours might tip the balance.   Many fine houses survive, though over the past two decades a good number have been neglected, and many have been 'remuddled' (to use Clem Labine's apt phrase), both inside and out.  With the pending restoration of the already locally protected and National Register listed Babcock-Shattuck house, located next door to the north, it's a good time to move ahead on this.

We don't know who the architect of 321 Westcott was, but the builder was local lawyer, politician, philanthropist, churchman and man of affairs Levi S. Chapman, who lived here beginning around 1900 (I've got to get back to the library to nail down the exact date) until his death in 1954. 

Here's Chapman's entry from Who's Who in New York City and State, (New York:W. F. Brainard, 1911), p. 166.

CHAPMAN, LEVI S.: Lawyer, b. Fayetteville, Onondaga Co., N.Y., Oct. 15, 1865; s. Nathan R. and Martha M. (Tibbitts) Chapman; ed. Fayetteville Union School, Whitestown Sem. and Syracuse Univ., A.B., 1889; m. Whitesboro, Onondaga Co., N.Y., 1892, Lucia Louise Pettingill; children: Ella Louise, b. 1894; Charles R., b.1897, Lucia M., b. 1905. Has practiced law at Syracuse since 1901; since 1892 mem. law firm Newell & Chapman or Newell, Chapman & Newell. Mem. N.Y. Legislature, 1895, from Third Assembly Dist., Onondaga Co., N.Y.; law clerk B'd of U.S. Gen. Appraisers, N.Y. City 1890-91. Director, sec. and treas. Watson Wagon Co., Canastota, N.Y.; director and att'y for City Bank of Syracuse; director of J. H. Morse Optical Co., H. J. Ormsbee Engraving Co., Syracuse & Elbridge Glove & Mitten Co., treas. Morningside Cemetery Ass'n, all of Syracuse, N.Y. Republican. Baptist. Mem. Phi Beta Kappa Soc., Delta Upsilon fraternity. Director Syracuse Y.M.C.A. (pres. 1898-1906). Clubs: University, Masonic. Address: 321 Westcott St., Syracuse, N.Y.

Levi S. Chapman was instrumental in the founding of the Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University. He seems to have moved the project forward after the Death of George Maxwell in 19?? and the decline in value of the North American Holding Corporation from which the new school was originally funded.  In the spring of 1936 the directors of North American Holding Corporation, of which Maxwell had been president, and Chapman V-P, were finally able to make food their pledge to the university and proceed with the erection of Maxwell Hall. At the building's dedication in 1937, it was Chapman presented Maxwell Hall to SU on behalf of the company.