Travelogue: Syracuse, New York

I warned you this would happen- here’s the first report from the City of Syracuse, New York, the beginning of my eventual Winter road trip. Not a lot unusual has happened in the old neighborhood since I’ve been gone…one arson around the corner, one kid across the street dragged out in handcuffs to an ambulance, a couple of pit bull attacks, a double shooting over the weekend since I got back. You know, life in the little big city. But don’t get me wrong, it’s really great to be back.

Syracuse has a lots recommend it. Foremost is the architecture. Syracuse was an industrial powerhouse and transportation hub back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, then went into a slow decline as the century wore on. During the boom days, wonderful Gothic, Deco and Richardson Romanesque edifices were built. In the residential parts of town, rich men built beautiful and vast Victorian and Italianate mansions. Even the poorer worker’s houses are charming, with fireplaces, oak floors and moldings, French doors and tall ceilings. As a rule, 1850 to 1930 was really the golden age of American architecture. By comparison, almost every architect from 1950 on should have their fingers cut off. That’s just an opinion there.

In the more economically dynamic areas, most of these gorgeous structures were torn down long ago to make way for newer, uglier and more functional buildings. But here in Syracuse, as well as other failing cities, these places remain, mostly for the sad reason that there was no new economy to support new construction. But like anything else, this was also a blessing in disguise…well, I can’t actually think of a situation where say, being electrocuted or run over by a freight train can be considered a blessing in disguise (unless it was an architect who got his fingers cut off of course), but you see where I’m headed.

The upshot is that downtown is simply loaded with magnificent facades, from the old Syracuse Savings Bank to the county courthouse. And now that the city really does seem to be on the economic mend and trying to position itself as a green tech zone, I hope that a lot of these structures will be saved, even if reutilized in sometimes novel ways. One building had it’s entire guts pulled out and was remade into a parking garage while keeping it’s original fa