Monday, September 3, 2018

Robust Classicism For Monumental Westcott Flats

Syracuse, NY. 716 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Syracuse, NY. 716 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Syracuse, NY. 716 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Robust Classicism For Monumental Westcott Flats
by Samuel D. Gruber 

[n.b. this post is a work in progress. If I get more information on these houses I'll update and re-post. One really needs to look at deeds and city directories to get the full record of owners and residents, but that will have to wait ].

[update Feb 7, 2020 identified architect of 519-521 Euclid ave. as James Meehan (1910)]

Earlier this summer a query was posted on the Nextdoor Westcott Syracuse listserve about 716 Westcott Street. More recently these has been some chatter about the house on the Nostalgic Syracuse Facebook page. The address is a very recognizable rental apartment building on the west side of Westcott Street between Clarendon Street and Euclid Avenue. It is remarkable for its bright colors (recently added) and giant Ionic columns (original). The writer wondered if "in its hey day someone super wealthy and cool owned it? maybe not?"  The answer is "maybe, and maybe not."

We know from the Hopkins city maps of 1908 and 1924 that the entire west side of the 700 block of Westcott  Street was developed between those years A notice in the Post-Standard from April 15, 1910 indicates that a building permit for a dwelling to cost $4,500 was granted to James J. O'Donnell for 716. 

Atlas of the city of Syracuse New York (Philadelphia : G.M. Hopkins Co., 1908). Detail of Westminster tract with 700 block of Westcott Street on right. Only one house is built on the block. N.B.  Frank Street is now Redfield Place.
Atlas of the city of Syracuse, N.Y. and suburbs (Philadelphia : G.M. Hopkins co., 1924 Detail of Westminster tract with 700 block of Westcott
Atlas of the city of Syracuse, N.Y. and suburbs (Philadelphia : G.M. Hopkins co., 1924  716 Westcott is number 11.
This was a period of rapid expansion in the area, and a good time for architect-designed houses.. An Post-Standard article of the same day notes that:
In the East End, the Onondaga Realty Company is busy in the work of putting up new dwellings. This company finds a good demand for houses, especially on University Heights. The architects say that they are kept busy in preparing plans for a good grade of houses and that home builders are beginning to recognize the advantages of having plans made by- experts, in which the artistic effect is given as much consideration as other features, which combine to make a home comfortable and' attractive. A house designed by a practical architect, they contend, will, as a rule, bring more money than one planned by an inexperienced man. should the owner at any time wish to dispose of. ("Demand for New Houses Keeps Up, Contractors Say," Post-Standard, April 15, 1910).
We know of many architect-designed houses in the neighborhood from this time. A house designed by noted architect Albert L. Brockway at 211 Comstock was built in 1910 and is similar to 716 Westcott Street. Unfortunately, the house has now been been stripped of all it detail). It has also been pointed out that the house resembles the most expensive version of Sears kit house, the so-called Magnolia, of which we have one example built in Syracuse at 1500 James Street, probably designed and built between 1918 and 1921.

Syracuse, NY. 211 Comstock Street. Alfred Brockway, architect, 1910. Post-Standard (May 2, 1910)

Syracuse, NY. 1500 James Street. Sears House, 1918-1921. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
 Another reference to the address in 1916 allows a pretty secure dating for 716 Westcott Street - even without consulting the property deed.  At this time Hamilton H. White and his new bride Katharine Cook were moving into the house after their marriage.
Mr and Mrs. Hamilton H. White have returned from their wedding journey and are at home at 716. Westcott street. (Syracuse Herald, Dec. 10, 1916).
Hamilton Howard White (1885-1959) was a member of one of Syracuse's oldest families. He was the grandson of Hamilton White (18071865) whose house faces Fayette Park and the son of Hamilton Salisbury White (1853-1899) the famed firefighter who is memorialized in a monument at the other end of Fayette Park.

So in a certain sense perhaps "someone super wealthy" lived in the house - though we don't know how wealthy young White was when he was just 31 years old. As for being "cool," all I can say is that he worked in insurance his whole life as president of Hamilton White Inc., Insurance Agency. A solid citizen, yes.  But "cool," I don't know (I'll have to ask Ham White his grandson who still lives in Syracuse). 

But the presence of young White on the 700 block of Westcott Street in 1916 is very typical of the type of resident moving into the new neighborhood. Many young families of white collar professionals found that they could afford to buy or build ample houses in a nice new neighborhood for affordable prices, and the Westcott neighborhood was linked to  the Downtown by streetcar.

The fact that 716 Westcott Street also only has a modest garage or out building also suggests that this was built more as "trolley house" than as mansion. The garage seems to be contemporary with the house. It has some of the same detailing. But compare, for example, the impressive garage built behind 317 Clarendon Street, a large Colonial Revival house designed by Justus Moak Scrafford for one family in 1912.

Syracuse, NY. 716 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. 716 Westcott Street. Pediment over side entrance. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018

The Westcott Street house, as impressive at it is, is really little different from dozens over other 2-family or "flats" buildings erected in the Westcott neighborhood between 1908 and 1924. Most of these buildings of apartments (flats) are easily recognizable. They usually have two doorways, and almost always have a double level of a generous front porch. The placement of windows, indicating the spaces within, are nearly identical on bottom and top floors. If there is diagonal row of windows, its probably the stairway leading to the upstairs apartment - but not all stairways have windows. A view 716 Westcott Street from the side and rear shows that the house fits this pattern. It's a simply rectangular wood-frame, clapboard-sided box  built on mass produced smooth sided cast blocks. Without its impressive classical detailing, the house would not stand out from dozens of other 2-family houses in the neighborhood. 

But the house does have impressive front and side columns, as well as extensive applied architectural ornament at the corners, around the windows and in the eaves. All this decoration ties the building into the many contemporary Classical Revival civic and commercial buildings of the time in Syracuse and across the country.  The main entrance facing Westcott Street also links the house to the complementary Colonial Revival style, particularly with the Colonial or Federal style elliptical fanlight over the door and the two  style rectangular sidelights. Even though all the elements are of wood and could be purchased through catalogs, the abundance of Classical and Colonial detail indicates an intentional in the design and building to make something notable and grand.

Syracuse, NY. 716 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Some of these multi-family buildings seem grander than others, mostly be using two-story columns or piers to support the balconies. this usage also ties these buildings in to the then current trend in public buildings which were built in the Classical style, often with giant columns. The style is a new iteration of the classicism that was popular in the early 19th century and that in 1910 could still be seen in the mansions lining James Street.

Syracuse, NY. Daniel M. Edwards Mansion, James St. (demolished). Photo: OHA
A new full-bodied classicism, inspired by the Columbian exposition in Chicago in 1893 can be seen in Syracuse as early as 1898 in the Psi Upsilon Fraternity House at Syracuse University, and soon after the buldings on the SU quad and many public buildings including the Onondaga County Courthouse (1906), and Temple Concord at University and Madison streets (1910-1911).

Syracuse, NY. Psi Upsilon House. Wellington Taber, architect, 1898. Postcard
716 Westcott is one of the grandest of the new big columned classical multi-family houses, but there are and have been others. Until it was "remuddled" in 2009, 519-521 Euclid Avenue has four great Corinthian columns supporting its porches, but now these have been replaced by two levels or more modest and meeker tapered piers.

Syracuse, NY. 519-521 Euclid Avenue before changes in 2009. James D. Meehan, architect, 1910. Photo: SEUNA
Syracuse, NY. 519-521 Euclid Avenue after changes in 2009. Photo:Samuel D. Gruber 2017.
The more Common Type of Classically-Inflected Multi-Family House - With Piers, not Columns

Most of the time in the Westcott neighborhood when 2-story supports are used for front porches on multi-family houses standard square piers are used as at  733-737 Ackerman Avenue, 823-825 Ackerman Avenue, 851-853 Ackerman Ave, 247-249 Buckingham Avenue, 427 Columbus Avenue, 137-139 Cumberland Avenue., 315-317 Euclid Avenue., 851 Euclid Avenue, 919 Euclid Avenue, 1905-1907 East Genesee Street, 2319 East Genesee Street, 232-234 Fellows Avenue, 905 Lancaster Avenue, 1060-1062 Lancaster Avenue, 329 Lexington Avenue , and many more. 

This means the application of a giant order to any otherwise simple gable facade, and the immediate transformation of a mundane structure - essentially a rectangular box - into a monumental one. here are some pictures...

Syracuse, NY. 851 Euclid Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber.
Syracuse, NY. 733-37 Ackerman Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2013
Syracuse, NY. 1905-07 East Genesee Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

Syracuse, NY. 427 Columbus Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 919 Euclid Ave. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2013
Syracuse, NY. 137-139 Cumberland Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Syracuse NY. 232-234 Fellows Ave. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018

Syracuse, NY. 719 Euclid Avenue. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.

Syracuse, NY. 329 Lexington Avenue. Photo: Bruce Harvey 2018
Syracuse, NY. 823-825 Ackerman Avenue. Photo: Bruce Harvey 2018
Syracuse, NY. 851-853 Ackerman Avenue. Photo: Bruce Harvey 2018
Syracuse, NY. 247-249 Buckingham Avenue. Photo: Bruce Harvey 2018
Syracuse, NY. 1060-1062 Lancaster Avenue. Photo: Bruce Harvey 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Syracuse High Points 4: Scottholm Terrace

Luna checking out the bricks on the way up to the summit of  Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Syracuse High Points 4: Scottholm Terrace
by Samuel D. Gruber

Since last summer Luna and I have been including Scottholm Terrace on some of our "high point" walks. The small street in the Scottholm neighborhood reaches a height of 640 feet above sea level, rising approximately 110 feet above the remainder of the Scottholm neighborhood, a good part of which was designated a National Register Historic District in 2012. To conquer these topographic challenges, over the decades the sloped ground has been sculpted and leveled to allow for residential construction.

This is visible today as each residential lot ‘steps’ up the hill. Even so, the steepest portions of the neighborhood, requiring the most leveling, were developed last and thus contain many mid-20th-century homes, built long after most of the Scottholm "garden suburb" was built in the 1920s. Albert Homes, Inc. developed the top of the drumlin in the late 1950s and early 1960s with a series of modern houses, many of which were purchased by Syracuse university professors.  Architecture professor Lou Skolar designed and built his won house (see below).

Syracuse, NY. 201 Sunnyside Rd. at the intersection with Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
An attractive cottage-style house, built ca. 1930, nestles against the hill at the corner of Sunnyside Rd and Scottholm Terrace. A series of split-level houses from the 1960s and later can then be seen dug into the slop heading up from Sunnyside Rd. Most of Scottholm Terrace is paved in brick - and has always remained so - to help with traction.  Only the flatter summit is paved in asphalt.

 Scottholm Terrace, mid-20th century split-level houses on the way up Scottholm Terrace from Sunnyside Rd. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Scottholm Terrace looking east. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Luna at  the summit of  Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Among the modern houses is the lovely and delicate Skoler House, designed in 1957 by Syracuse University architecture professor Lou Skoler (1920-2008) as home for himself, wife Celia, and children. The house is Influenced by Japanese design and sits lightly on the hilltop. It is noted for open easily partitioned interior spaces and (I'm told) offers breathtaking views to the north and east when the foliage is not full. Skoler, a graduate of Cornell's School of Architecture, became an influential professor of architecture at Syracuse University and played a leading role in introducing modern architecture to Central New York. 

The 1900-square foot house is one of the few modern style buildings in Syracuse listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its present occupants have worked hard to maintain its architectural integrity. what was sees from the street is only a partial view, as a lower story of the house is set below in the hillside, and its occupants have long vistas to the east. The Japanese-influenced design and construction of the building were innovative for Syracuse in the 1950's and Skolar could not find a contractors to bid on his design. Consequently, he served as his own contractor.

Syracuse, NY. Skolar House, 213 Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Syracuse, NY. Skolar House, 213 Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Syracuse, NY. Skolar House, 213 Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Luna checking out the bricks on the way down from the summit of  Scottholm Terrace. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017

Down the slope of Scottholm Terrace toward East Genesee Street are several notable houses. This side of drumlin was developed - up to a certain point in - the teens and 1920s. including two by Arts and Crafts architect Ward Wellington Ward. The Amon Sanderson House at 100 Scottholm Terrace (aka 112 Scottholm Boulevard), built in 1916, was one of the first erected in Scottholm. Sanderson was a former clergyman who became a developer of residential neighborhoods, especially on the Eastside of Syracuse. In city directories he is listed as president of the Scottholm Company in 1922 and secretary of the Eastern Land Corp. in 1920.Thus his house was both a personal investment and an advertisement to encourage other builders in the new neighborhood.

This two-story frame house exemplifies Ward’s Arts & Crafts style and also the related Prairie style.  Among the distinctive features of the house are its gable-on-hipped roof, cedar clapboards in wide and narrow strips, decorative lattice-work and gable designs. A one story porch faces Scottholm Terrace.  The house is one of five similar homes in Syracuse designed by Ward. The others are at 464 Allen Street, 100 Berkeley Drive, 1917 West Colvin Street, and 116 Rugby Road.

Syracuse, NY. Amon Sanderson House, 100 Scottholm Terrace, Ward Wellington Ward, architect, 1916. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
The Mrs. F. Reynolds House at 104 Scottholm Terrace was built  in 1919.  It is an unusualy Ward design. The basic form and structure of the house are similar to the Sanderson House, but the stucco finish links it - at least visually - to contemporary California designs.

Nearby houses also incorporate Arts & Crafts and Tudor Revival forms and details, but for now, the architects of this fine houses remain unknown.

Syracuse, NY. Mrs. F. Reynolds House, 104 Scottholm Terrace, Ward Wellington Ward, architect, 1919. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. 106 Scottholm Terrace, 1928 (?)  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. 114 and 112 Scottholm Terrace.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. 116 Scottholm Terrace.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Read more about Scottholm here. 

Other Syracuse High Points:

Syracuse High Points 3: Morningside Heights Park and Reservoir  (& Graffiti Gallery) 

Syracuse High Points 2: Thornden Park Water Tower (Elon P. Stewart Reservoir)

Syracuse High Points 1: Westminster Park


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Concord Place: Westcott Neighborhood's Village Green

Syracuse, NY. Concord Pl. Photo: Samuel Gruber.
Syracuse, NY. Concord Pl. looking northeast. Photo: Samuel Gruber.
Syracuse, NY. Concord Pl. Porch of 116, looking east. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. Concord Pl., looking northeast. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Concord Place: Westcott Neighborhood's Village Green
by Samuel D. Gruber

I recently wrote about  Euclid Terrace, the Westcott Neighborhood's hidden English village enclave. The development of Euclid Terrace in the 1920s may have been inspired by the success of the nearby, but much more public Concord Place, a one-block street between Westcott and Allen Streets that has divided carriageways that wrap around an elongated median that takes the form of an small urban park. 

The street is lined with impressive houses mostly built in the first decade of the 20th century. These include some of Syracuse's earliest examples of Arts and Crafts and craftsman houses, including an important work (125 Concord Pl) attributed to LaMont Warner and a transitional design by Ward Wellington Ward (126 Concord), which was one of the first of his many houses in the area. Other houses on the street are clearly architect-designed but we have not yet been able to make attributions.

Syracuse, NY. 125 Concord Pl. Lamont Warner House. Lamont Warner, architect, 1902. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Syracuse, NY. 126 Concord Pl. John B. Tuck House. Ward Wellington Ward, architect, 1910. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016

What is now Concord Place, was originally planned as a plain street known as Wickliffe Street, part of the Hillsdale Tract. Though Hillsdale was promoted in the 1880s, only a few houses were built before 1900, at which time residential development in the area increased rapidly and continued through the 1920s.

Syracuse, NY. Hillsdale Tract map, 1889. Photo courtesy Bruce Harvey.
Syracuse, NY. Hillsdale Tract amended map, 1893. Photo courtesy Bruce Harvey.

Contrary to common belief, Concord Place, with its unusual elongated oval form, is not in any way a continuation of the driving course which had covered most of the Hillsdale Tract earlier in the 19th century.
Syracuse, NY. 1892 map of Hillsdale Tract, including Wickliffe St (to be renamed Concord Place), detail from Atlas of the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York .  (New York: J.W. Vose & co., 1892).
Atlas of the city of Syracuse New York (Philadelphia : G.M. Hopkins Co., 1908). Detail of Concord Place.

In 1893 the design of the tract was amended with a new map by Mather & Allen, civil engineers. The number of lots slightly lowered, and Concord Place was given its current form.  In 1924 the green space was clearly designated as Concord Park.
Already by 1908 about half the present-day houses were built on Concord Place; five on each side of the street. The Lamont Warner House, believed to have been built in 1902 by the designer (who moved to Syracuse in 1900), was already complete on a double lot at the northwest corner of Allen Street and Concord Place. The rest of the 600 and 700 blocks of Allen Street were still undeveloped at the time.

Impressive Craftsman-type houses, with steep roofs with large gables and projecting multi-window dormers, shingle siding, and expansive porches are especially found on the north side of the street. These are transitional designs and also incorporate some elements common to the large late Victorian houses found on the 400 block of Allen street, and which at time were called "Colonial," in part because of the use of Palladian windows and other small classical, Renaissance or Adamesque features.

Number 119 and 121 were both built after 1908 - probably around 1910.Both houses utilize elements of the Craftsman style including the high wide gable and projecting eaves, but in a more regular way. We can see even with these large houses that certain patterns are now being more regularly followed by builders. It is quite likely that these two houses on adjacent lots were built by the same developer at the same time. They are not quite twin houses, but share their most important design elements. There are little different form the many Four Square houses being built nearby in the 600 block of Allen Street, except they gable roofs (instead of hipped) and the prominent gabled dormers.

Syracuse, NY. 117 Concord Pl. (before 1908). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 113 Concord Pl. (before 1908). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018


Syracuse, NY. 119 Concord Pl. (after 1908). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 121 Concord Pl. (after 1908). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

Other early houses on the street mix late 19th- and early 20th-century residential fashion in different ways. Number 105 is dominated by a large round corner tower. Though the main body of the house appears to be an example of the then popular hipped-roof Four Square type, the tower creates a very different impression. Though the house is smaller than the Babcock-Shattuck house at Westcott and East Genesee Streets, the role of the tower is the same. The hipped roof also sprouts an unusual polygonal dormer.

Across the street at number 116, there is a vestigial round tower on the side of the house, now just a projecting bay. The roof is a cross-gable construction, but the front-facing gambrel roof and gable, incorporating the so-called dutch Colonial Revival style popular after 1900. Like most of the house on the street, number 116 has a grand open porch looking onto the center park.

Syracuse, NY. 105 Concord Pl. (before 1908). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Syracuse, NY. 116 Concord Pl. (before 1908). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018..

By 1924, as seen on the map, the entire block was now filled in and 7 of the earlier 10 houses had added small detached garages in the rear and the end of their side driveways. New houses on the south side of the street include a bungalow and a curious brick bungalow-type houses.
Atlas of the city of Syracuse, N.Y. and suburbs (Philadelphia : G.M. Hopkins co., 1924). Detail of Concord Place.
Syracuse, NY. 106 Concord Pl. Bungalow.  Photo: Samuel Gruber.
Syracuse, NY. 108 Concord Pl. Bungalow.  Photo: Samuel Gruber.

Concord Place is just one of several streets throughout the city that are designed with significant green space - either a median or a park - dividing directional carriageways in the manner of a parkway. A comparable short block is on the North Side at the 700 block of North McBride Street.

A slightly earlier example of a similar type on the East Side is Walnut Park, developed by George Comstock. The park runs several blocks between Walnut Place and Walnut Ave.  Deeded to the city in 1870 as the heart of a new development area the park was lined with substantial homes and some mansions around 1900, most of which have served as Syracuse University fraternities and sororities since the 1920s.  It is quite likely that the Hillsdale developers’ decision to alter the form of Concord Place was influenced by the Comstock development, in the hope of making the block a more exclusive enclave.

Syracuse, NY. Walnut Park. Photo: Samuel Gruber.
A similar design, but with narrower parkland, is Shotwell Park and adjacent Melrose Avenue in Eastwood.

This “greening” of the city was even more popular in the first decades of the 20th century influenced by the practical urban landscape work of the Frederick Law Olmsted and his followers, such as Arthur Coleman Comey, who designed the Scottholm subdivision. On the East Side of Syracuse these developments are more common in Garden Suburb developments (Berkeley Drive, Scottholm Boulevard) in even further East in Bradford Hills (Bradford Parkway, Old Lyme, Hillsboro Parkway, etc.).

Syracuse, NY. Concord Pl. Porch of 116, looking northeast. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.