The most striking change in Downtown Syracuse’s building stock over the last 100 years is the almost total removal of apartment houses.
Downtown’s old apartment houses weren’t as famous as major public buildings like the Third County Courthouse of the Yates Hotel, but they were home to hundreds of people at any given time, and their loss explains why Downtown is home to less than half as many people today as in 1930. And because they were less photographed and less missed, it’s easy to forget just how numerous they used to be and just how many people used to live Downtown.
As Syracuse seeks to unmake this Urban Renewal era mistake and knit Downtown back into the the City’s fabric, it’s helpful to see pictures of these lost homes remember that the neighborhood was full of housing for most of its history. Here are some rarely seen photos of just a few of Downtown’s demolished apartment buildings.
The Holland Flats (121-127 Madison Street)
Frazer Block (101-109 W. Adams Street)
Hier Flats (408-412 W. Willow Street)
The Moore Apartments (242-250 James Street)
The Ely Flats (226 E. Onondaga Street)
The Dorset Apartments (161 E. Onondaga Street)
This short list doesn’t capture anywhere near the volume or variety of housing that existed Downtown before urban renewal. It doesn’t include other apartment buildings like The Mabelle (513 S Salina St), the Gendreda Flats (620 S Warren St), the Adella Flats (616 S Warren St), the Langdon Flats (614 S Warren St), the Kenyon Flats (610 S Warren St), the Westminster Flats (206 E Harrison St), the Lydon Flats (129 N State St), the Charles Flats (417 E Jefferson St), The Madison Flats (315 Madison St), The Mowry Apartments (100 W Onondaga St), The Florence Flats (101 W Onondaga St), Lyons Flats (200 W Adams St), or Merrick Place (201 W Adams St). It also doesn’t include the many boarding houses, rooming houses, and tenements that used to cover the land bounded by and underneath today’s elevated highways. And it doesn’t include the dozens of hotels that housed both short- and long-term residents before urban renewal.
But this short list does show that there used to be a lot more housing Downtown and that recent residential construction in the City’s center is a reversion to our historical mean rather than some strange new phenomenon. We’ve got a lot more building to do before Downtown can house as many people as it did 100 years ago, but we’re getting closer all the time, and that’s a good thing.