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.

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