Thursday, May 7, 2020

Syracuse Jewish Sites V: The Rosenbloom Family and Their Cemetery

Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Rosenbloom Mausoleum. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Monument commemorating members of the Rosenbloom family. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Monument commemorating members of the Rosenbloom family. Here are inscribed the names of Daniel, Hannah, Simon and Henry. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012

Syracuse Jewish Sites V: The Rosenbloom Family and Their Cemetery

by Samuel D. Gruber

[n.b. Some information in this post may be expanded or corrected when I have access to the Temple Concord and other archives after separation restrictions ease. As always, I appreciate hearing from readers with comments and/or corrections].

A few weeks ago I wrote about the early history Temple Society of Concord, and the role played by Solomon Rosenbloom in the schism of the 1860s that led him and others to form a new more traditional congregation in 1864. That congregation, Adath Jeshurun (not to be confused with today's Adath Yeshuran) created its own independent cemetery on land purchased by Solomon Rosenbloom in 1864 at 800 East Colvin Avenue. Though originally known as the Adath Yeshurun cemetery, it is now called the Rosenbloom Cemetery. Temple Concord already had a burial ground at Rose Hill Cemetery, established in the 1840s, so the creation of a new burial ground really emphasized the seriousness and finality of the congregational break.

Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Entrance. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.

In the 1880s Rosenbloom purchased a parcel of land on Orange Street and had a purpose-built synagogue erected for the congregation that was dedicated in 1887. This came to be known as the Rosenbloom Shul which was active until 1925, when most of the remaining congregants re-merged with Temple Concord. As I wrote previously, the building may have been left standing into the 1930s, when demolitions began in the neighborhood for Pioneer Homes, and then subsequently, for the massive "urban renewal" projects of the post-World War II period. I am presently looking for photos from this period.

Solomon Rosenbloom. Portrait, Collection of Temple Concord. Photo: Samuel Gruber.

Who was Solomon Rosenbloom? That is not a question anyone would need to ask in late 19th-century Syracuse, where Rosenbloom's Department Store was one of the major commercial engines of the Downtown. His many offspring were active in Syracuse commercial, political, social, philanthropic, and religious life. The name Rosenbloom was very well known.

Solomon Rosenbloom, the family patriarch, was born November 20, 1822, in Ober-Altheim, Bavaria. He came to America in 1846 and after a year in New York City he moved to the newly incorporated town of Syracuse. It is possible Solomon emigrated like many young Jewish men because of the restrictions on Jewish population expansion, most effectively enforced by limiting the number of Jewish marriages. According to historian Steven M. Lowenstein, Bavaria had the strictest laws:
"The Bavarian law of 1813 declared as a general principle that the number of Jews should not increase but rather be diminished. It set a fixed number of Jewish families in each locality and as a general rule ordered that no Jew might marry and establish a family unless there was a vacancy on the list of families (Matrikel) caused by emigration or death of a family head. These Matrikel laws remained in effect until 1861. Although the law admitted to exceptions for certain occupational categories, they were rarely granted. ["Ashkenazic Jewry and the European Marriage Pattern: A Preliminary Survey of Jewish Marriage Age ," Jewish History, Vol. 8, No. 1/2, (1994), p. 158]
Significantly, Solomon married Hannah Hermann (1827-1884), who he had known in Bavaria where she was born in Geroldshausen (Bavaria), in 1848, soon after settling in Syracuse. Like most of his German-speaking Jewish peers who spread out across America in the 1840s, Solomon began work as a peddler. This was not always easy work, and there were cases in the Syracuse area of Jewish peddlers being assaulted and even murdered. 

Solomon and Hannah produced a large family but that was not unusual for either Jews or Christians at the time. Marcus Rosenbloom (1849-1919); Daniel Rosenbloom (1851-1905); Simon Rosenbloom (1853-1923); Hannah van Baalen (1855-1912); Moses Rosenbloom (1860-1917); Isaac Rosenbloom (1864-1954), Henry Rosenbloom (1865-1933), and Abraham Rosenbloom (1867-1947).

From his humble beginning Solomon (and his six sons) were eventually able to build, by the end of the 19th century, a prominent commercial presence in the region. This included one of the largest department stores in Syracuse with branch stores in Utica; Auburn; Providence, RI; and Akron, OH and large holdings in real estate. The main store of S. Rosenbloom & Sons was at 216 South Salina Street, built ca. 1893.

Syracuse, NY. Rosenblooms Department Store, 216 South Salina Street. Undated postcard, mailed 1905.
Advertising trading card for Rosenbloom Bros. Store, late 19th century.
Advertising trading card for Rosenbloom Bros. Store, late 19th century.

Cover to the S. Rosenbloom & Sons Catalogue, 1909. Photo shared by Walter Miller.
S. Rosenbloom & Sons buildings illustrated in 1909 catalogue. Photo shared by Walter Miller.

Solomon was a shoemaker - perhaps this was a skill he brought from Germany. When he had enough capital from peddling he opened a shoe store in the old Bastable block on East Genesee Street. In 1869 his older sons entered the business and it was renamed S. Rosenbloom & Sons. This period coincides with the split from Temple Concord, and with his sons in the business, Solomon was able to give more time to affairs of his new religious congregation, Adath Jeshurun, founded in 1864.

The business, which was advertised by scores of illustrated collectible advertising cards, expanded from shoes and boots to include furniture, dry goods, and others items sold in a department store, and it became a leading retail venue in Syracuse with branches in many towns and cities. 

Marcus, who retired from the family business in 1897, devoted himself to real estate development, and built several commercial structures on South Salina Street. He also became active in the Adath Jeshurun Synagogue and various local charitable organizations. The remaining brothers sold the business in 1915 but they stayed involved in community and Jewish affairs. Marcus died in 1919.

Of the seven sons, five remained bachelors. Marcus, the eldest, married Rosa (née Kohn) (1855-1940). Isaac, who lived longest, married Clara, and the couple survived into the 1950s. Clara, the last of her generation buried in the Rosenbloom Cemetery in 1959.

The cemetery is laid out with rows of graves going up hill, from the north end at East Colvin to the south end at the top of a hill. The graves are laid east-west, with a more open central area where at the top of the hill is erected a classical temple-style mausoleum which looks down across the space to a tall obelisk monument close to the entrance. This central space has been filled with more graves over time.

At the cemetery, Solomon (1822-1896) and Daniel (1851-1905) have their own early graves, and Isaac and Clara have a late grave, but the rest of the brothers do not have individual gravestones, suggesting that the mausoleum was built some time after 1905, when Daniel died, but probably close to 1917 when Moses died. Moses and the remaining brothers (except Isaac) appear to be buried at the mausoleum. 1917 would be an appropriate date for the classical style of the mausoleum. Most probably such a monument would have distressed their father, the very pious Solomon, but it must have been acceptable to the sons.

About the same time, a similar mausoleum was built by their contemporary Gates Thalheimer at the new Temple Society of Concord Cemetery that had opened at Woodlawn cemetery in 1913. Gates's wife Jennie Stern Thalheimer had died in 1918. Similarly, a large obelisk monument was erected for the prominent Leiter family at the new Temple Concord cemetery, and this may have influenced the Rosenbloom obelisk - or vice versa.

Syracuse, NY. Woodlawn Cemetery, Temple Concord parcel at section 30. Thalheimer Mausoleum, 1918? Gates Thalheimer was president of Temple Concord from 1897 until his death in 1928. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.
Syracuse, NY. Woodlawn Cemetery, Temple Concord parcel at section 30. Leiter monument. Herman Leiter's bequest to Temple Concord allowed the congregation to seriously consider building a new Temple. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.

The names and dates of Rosenbloom family members are inscribed on the base of the obelisk, which seems to only be a memorial. The graves of Solomon nad Daniel, with more detailed gravestones, are to the west against the fence which delimits the cemetery parcel, and the other graves msut be in or around the masuoleum. On the east side of the cemetery, or left hand as one ascends the hill, are other graves and these belong to Jews who belonged to the Adath Jeshurun congregation. Many founders of Temple Concord are buried here along with the Rosenblooms. These gravestones do not seem to match or follow any particular pattern. All the stones have been photographed by others and can be seen on the Find a Grave website here.

Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Gravestone of Sophia Hirsch, d. 1883. The monogram at the top of the stone is an S" and "H" for both Solomon and Sophia Hirsch. Similar monograms can be found n contemporary Christian graves in Oakwood cemetery. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Monument commemorating members of the Rosenbloom family. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. view looking north from the mausoleum to the Obelisk.. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. New stones on the eastern side of the cemetery. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.

Daniel, who died in 1905, was the most active in civic affairs of the brothers. He, too, was involved in real estate development, and owned the Rosenbloom Tract on the Eastside, where the 400 block of Columbus Avenue and the Gustav Stickley House are today. A few years ago I wrote about a house on that tract that was owned by Daniel, but it is not known if he actually lived there. The English language passage on his gravestone reads: "Devout and Faithful son of Israel; a Righteous God fearing man, mourned by his family. Loved by his race and revered by all who knew him for his charity, his integrity, his love for truth and right."

At the time of his death, Daniel was living at 704 East Jefferson Street (at State Street) with his brothers Abraham, Henry, Moses and Simon. Isaac lived at 806 East Genesee Street (Btw Forman & Almond). Marcus had an office (?) at 320 S. Salina Street and lived at 700 East Jefferson, next to his brothers. Benjamin Stolz (1857-1937), the prominent lawyer, live up the street at 718. Stolz, who served as president of Temple Concord after the death of Gates Thalheimer in 1928, died in 1937, and is buried in the Rosenbloom Cemetery.

Daniel Rosenbloom. Portrait in 1902 Political Blue Book

Syracuse, NY. Rosenbloom Cemetery, East Colvin Street. Gravestone of Daniel Rosenbloom (d. 1905). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012.
Benjamin Stolz as a young lawyer, obviously serving the German-speaking community.

You can view many Rosenbloom trading cards at:

Saturday, May 2, 2020

All's Quiet on Westcott Street and a History of Huckster Hill (Westcott & South Beech Streets)

Syracuse, NY. Huckster Hill seen from the south. Photo: Samuel Gruber April 2020.
Syracuse, NY. Huckster Hill seen from the north. Photo: Samuel Gruber April 2020.

All's Quiet on Westcott Street and a History of Huckster Hill

By Samuel D. Gruber

[n.b this post has been updated and corrected May 3, 2020. Thank to Owen Graham O'Neill for putting me straight!]

It is weird to walk on a totally deserted Westcott Street, especially after the continuing uptick in business and street activity over the past few years. Normally, as we enter into springtime there would be scores of students, dog-walkers, long-time neighborhood residents, and day-trippers out enjoying the vibes, and the many food and drink offerings. 

I did not even have a chance to try out several new eateries around Westcott and Dell Street before things closed up due to the pandemic. A few restaurants are still offering take-out orders, but with students gone, even this has to be a struggle. I hope our many bars and restaurants can recover - either as they were or reinvented for post-Covid times. Without people, however, the neighborhood certainly looks clean! 

Syracuse, NY. Alto Cinco's and the Westcott Theater.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.
Syracuse, NY. The south part of the commercial strip. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.

On a recent walk, the area at the intersection of South Beech Street and Westcott looked especially pretty. This is the grassy knoll that was once the front yard of a house on South Beech Street, and since 2015 has been called Huckster Hill, and serves as a new little park in our neighborhood; just a relaxing punctuation mark at the south end of the commercial district.

Syracuse, NY. Huckster's Hill seen from the south. Photo: Samuel Gruber April 2020.

This intersection has gone through a lot of changes. Long before my memory, the corner was marked by a two story house built with a commercial space on the ground floor (a similar example still exists on Dell street). There may have been a grocery store here early in the 20th century, and by the 1930s it was the Ostrom Pharmacy. By the mid-1960s the building was sitting empty until it was torn down, according to Owen O'Neill who remembers the event, around 1968 or 1969.

When the old Ostrom pharmacy was torn down the city decided to change the street lay out and cut the end of South Beach, so the street turned into Westcott Street at more of a right angle. The present day building where the mural is painted sits behind (north) of the old pharmacy building. South Beach had previously continued straight until it hit Westcott Street in a V or Y intersection. This made  a left turn from South Beech onto Westcott difficult and dangerous, especially when cars were parked along this area limiting visibility. So when the old pharmacy building was torn down, there was a large enough lot for a safer new intersection. The cast block hardware store  was built behind it - we're still trying to clarify the date - but its featureless south wall now fronted on the intersection.  

Presently the home of Yeti Frozen Yogurt & Cafe, the hardware store closed in 1997, and since then the space has housed a variety of commercial enterprises. Tenants and the exterior paint jobs change, but the building has remained essentially the same.

Syracuse, NY. Intersection of South Beech and Westcott Streets. This two-story frame building housed a pharmacy until it was torn down in the late 1960s. Historic photo from Eva Hardin Papers, Syracuse University SCRC.
Syracuse, NY. Scharf's Hardware at Westcott and South Beech Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 1996.

Syracuse, NY. 558 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011.
Syracuse, NY. 558 Westcott Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2014.
Syracuse, NY. 558 Westcott Street with Westcott Community Mural. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.
Syracuse, NY. The Michael Moody Community mural (1997) seen from the Huckster Hill. Photo: Samuel Gruber April 2020.

The Westcott East Neighborhood Association commissioned local artist Michael Moody in 1997 to paint a mural on the hardware store wall, about the time the business closed. This developed out of a community project to revive the Westcott Commercial District. The scene represents neighborhood residents, including Tony DeLuca, long-time resident and proprietor of Abdo's grocery store who died the year the mural was completed. Abdo's, operated by the DeLuca family since 1936, was later sold, and the name of the small store has been changed to Casa de 'Cuse. Now a new "Westcott Nation" mural is being painted by Jacob Roberts just up the street on the large wall overlooking Dorian's parking lot.

To learn more about all the murals on Westcott Street go here.

Syracuse, NY. Huckster Hill seen from the south. Photo: Samuel Gruber April 2020.
The Huckster Hill park project began in 2010, the brainchild of Damian Vallelonga, a graphic designer and neighborhood activist, and Brendan Rose, a sculptor. The two are longtime friends who grew up in he neighborhood and followed careers in art and design. Damian is also now part-owner of the new St. Urban wine bar and restaurant, where Taste of India used to be. Damian and Brendan are partners in the art and design collective Echo, and have contributed designs for several other local amenities, including the bus shelter at Westcott Street and Euclid Avenue, sponsored by the Westcott Neighborhood Association (WNA) with funding from UNSAAC. 

Over the years the WNA gardening committee had tried to keep the little knoll planted with flowers, but it was always an ad hoc activity. Mostly, the space was orphaned and under-utilized. The bench and trash can at the edge were ugly, and made the place uninviting. Now there are attractive new benches that are frequently used, and WNA has created another art-bench across the way, a complex wood construction designed by Diana Jaramillo. The space is kept clean and trimmed by WNA volunteers.

Syracuse, NY. Park bench at Huckster Hill before the area was renovated. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2009.
Syracuse, NY. Neighborhood activist and Community Choir director Karen Mihalyi relaxing at Westcott Street Fair - at the old Huckster Hill.. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011.
Syracuse, NY. Brendan Rose and Mark Povinelli built a concrete bench at Huckster Hill. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014.

Syracuse, NY. Artist Mark Povinelli adds a glass mosaic to the largest bench at Huckster Hill. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014.
Syracuse, NY.  Bench at Huckster Hill. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2020.
Syracuse, NY.  Bench at Huckster Hill. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2020

Extensive street work of Westcott, including Save the Rain and traffic calming projects slowed progress, but offered new opportunities, too. The new "necking" sidewalks are wider than before, and create a link across South Beech to the little green space in front of the Moody mural. The turn from South Beech onto Westcott is now sharp, requiring drivers to fully stop. The designers kept, but cleaned and thinned the park's center of trees and bushes, and a brick path, added unique benches and retaining walls to delineate the park. The three benches are a combination of poured concrete and repurposed wood from Cosmo Fanizzi of City Woods. Local artist Mark Povinelli added a glass mosaic to the largest bench. A large LED light was  installed under the seating to provide a warm glow under each of the bench. The project was funded with several city grants totaling $4,050. The all-volunteer effort involved about 500 hours in the design, construction, coordination and art work.
To celebrate the project Vallelonga and Rose came up with a new name for the previously anonymous space. Reaching into Westcott Nation tradition, they learned that a fruit vender known as Huckster Jack used to sell his produce on the hill in the 1960s or 1970s, though the practice of street venders goes back at least to the 1920s.  Hence the new name.

Syracuse, NY. Westcott Community Mural. Michael Moody, artist, 1997. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.
Until 1960, when the present-day Petit Library opened on Victoria Place, this area around Huckster Hill was a very lively place. The previous library location was right here, at 746 South Beech Street, in a house that has since been torn down, where the parking lot and storage building are now located next to 744 South Beech Street.

Syracuse, NY. 746 South Beech Street, formerly Petit Library. Demolished.
Syracuse, NY. Parking lot on site 746 South Beech Street, formerly Petit Library and still-standing 744 South Beech. Seen form Huckster Hill. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2020.

Petit Library, then called Westcott Station, first opened in the Lawrence Drug Store at the corner of Westcott and Dell Streets in 1912, but this was discontinued in 1926, when the Douglas E. Petit Branch, opened in a “temporary” space on Nov. 20, 1928 in a first floor apartment at 746 South Beech Street. Though that space was soon over crowded, the  library waited for decades for a new facility. In 1952, the situation was described like this: “Hundreds of eager children are among the 7,500 branch users crowding into the small five-room flat every year, leaving little room for the reference patrons and none for the person who just likes to sit and read.” The library moved to its present building on Victoria Place in 1961.

For many years the lot and storage garage behind it have belonged to Boom Babies owner Lorraine Koury. During the year the garage houses sartorial overflow for Boom Babies,and the lot provides extra parking. Once a year at the Westcott Cultural Fair the parking lot is alive with activity and music.