History of Syracuse, New York

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Erie Canal at Salina Street, downtown Syracuse, New York, 1904
Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 22,271
1860 28,119 26.3%
1870 43,051 53.1%
1880 51,792 20.3%
1890 88,143 70.2%
1900 108,374 23.0%
1910 137,249 26.6%
1920 171,717 25.1%
1930 209,326 21.9%
1940 205,967 −1.6%
1950 220,583 7.1%
1960 216,038 −2.1%
1970 197,208 −8.7%
1980 170,105 −13.7%
1990 163,860 −3.7%
2000 147,306 −10.1%
2010 145,170 −1.5%
[1][2]

Syracuse, New York, officially incorporated as a village in 1825, has been a major crossroads over the last two centuries, first between the Erie Canal and its branch canals, then on the railway network.

Early history[edit]

Erie Canal at Salina Street
Salt sheds c. 1908

The Syracuse area was first seen by Europeans when French missionaries came to the area in the 1600s. At the invitation of the Onondaga Nation, one of the five constituent members of the Iroquois confederacy, a group of Jesuit priests, soldiers, and coureurs des bois (including Pierre Esprit Radisson) set up a mission, known as Saint Marie Among the Iroquois, or Ste. Marie de Gannent aha, on the northeast shore of Onondaga Lake.

The mission was short lived, as the Mohawk Nation hinted to the Onondaga that they should sever their ties with the French, or the Onondaga's guests would suffer a horrible fate. When the men in the mission caught wind of this, they left under cover of a cold night in March. Their stay had been less than two years. The remains of the mission have been located underneath a restaurant in nearby Liverpool. There is now a living history museum in Liverpool that recreates the mission.

Just after the Revolutionary War, more settlers came to the area, mostly to trade with the Onondaga Nation. Ephraim Webster left the Continental Army to settle in 1784, along with Asa Danforth, another Revolutionary War hero. Comfort Tyler, whose engineering skill contributed to regional development, arrived four years later. All three settled in Onondaga Hollow south of the present city center, which was then marshy.

Jesuit missionaries visiting the Syracuse region in the mid 1600s reported salty brine springs around the southern end of "Salt Lake", known today as Onondaga Lake. The 1788 Treaty of Fort Stanwix, and the subsequent designation of the area by the state of New York as the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation[3] provided the basis for commercial salt production from the late 1700s through the early 1900s; brine from wells that tapped into halite(common salt) beds in the Salina shale near Tully, New York, 15 miles south of the city were developed in the 19th century. It is the north flowing brine from Tully that is the source of salt for the "salty springs" found along the shoreline of Onondaga lake. The rapid development of this industry in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the nicknaming of Syracuse as "The Salt City".[4]

19th century[edit]

South Salina Street c. 1905

The original settlement of what today is Syracuse went through several name changes until 1824, first being called Salt Point (1780), then Webster's Landing (1786), Bogardus Corners (1796), Milan (1809), South Salina (1812), Cossits’ Corners (1814), and Corinth (1817). The U.S. Postal Service rejected the name Corinth upon its application for a post office, stating there was already a post office by this name in New York. Because of similarities such as a salt industry and a neighboring village named Salina, the name Syracuse was chosen, after Syracuse, Sicily.

In 1825, the Village of Syracuse was officially incorporated. Five years later, the Erie Canal, which ran through the village, was completed. The Village of Syracuse and the Village of Salina were combined into the City of Syracuse on December 14, 1847. Harvey Baldwin was the first mayor of the new city.[5]

Early industries[edit]

The opening of the canal caused a steep increase in the sale of salt, not simply because of the improved and lower cost of transportation, but because the canal led New York farms to change from wheat to pork, and curing pork required salt. Until 1900 the bulk of the salt used in the United States came from Syracuse[6] As salt production climbed, the processing became increasingly mechanized, and local industry became more generalized; population grew from 250 in 1820, to 5,000 in 1850, making it the twelfth largest city in the Union at that time.[citation needed]

The first Solvay Process Company plant in the United States, was erected on the southeastern shore of Onondaga lake in 1884 and the village was given the name Solvay, New York to commemorate its inventor, Ernest Solvay. In 1861, he developed the ammonia-soda process for the manufacture of soda ash {anhydrous sodium carbonate, a rare chemical called natrite, to distinguish it from natural natron of antiquity} from brine wells dug in the southern end of Tully valley (as a source of sodium chloride) and limestone (as a source of calcium carbonate). The process was an improvement over the earlier Leblanc process. The Syracuse Solvay plant was the incubator for a large chemical industry complex owned by Allied Signal in Syracuse, the result of which made Onondaga Lake the most polluted in the nation.

Since the discovery of large deposits of natural sodium carbonateTrona in 1938, near Green River in Wyoming, the Solvay process became uneconomical and the Syracuse Solvay Process Company plant closed permanently in 1985. No such plants operate now in North America. However, throughout the rest of the world the Solvay process remains the major source of soda ash.

The closing of the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation in the early 1900s and the end to mining brine in the southern part of the Tully valley in the late 1900s closed the final chapter of salt mining in the Syracuse region, but groundwater flowing along the southeastern shore of Onondaga lake in Syracuse still allows salty water from a thousand feet below the southern Tully valley to flow by gravity feeding salt springs around the lake where the Salina shale contains no halite beds.[4]

Fayette Street c. 1920

Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad[edit]

Syracuse became an active center for the abolitionist movement, due in large part to the influence of Gerrit Smith and a group allied with him, mostly associated with the Unitarian Church and their pastor The Reverend Samuel May in Syracuse, as well as with Quakers in nearby Skaneateles, supported as well by abolitionists in many other religious congregations.[7] Prior to the Civil War, due to the work of Jermain Wesley Loguen and others in defiance of federal law, Syracuse was known as the "great central depot on the Underground Railroad". On October 1, 1851, William Henry, a freed slave known as "Jerry" was arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law. The anti-slavery Liberty Party was holding its state convention in the city, and when word of the arrest spread, several hundred abolitionists including Charles Augustus Wheaton broke into the city jail and freed Jerry. The event came to be widely known as the "Jerry Rescue". In the aftermath, the Congregationalist minister Samuel Ringgold Ward had to flee to Canada to escape persecution because of his participation.[7]

Industry and education in the late 19th century[edit]

The salt industry declined after the Civil War, but a new manufacturing industry arose in its place.

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, numerous businesses and stores were established, including the Franklin Automobile Company, which produced the first air-cooled engine in the world;[citation needed] the Century Motor Vehicle Company; and the Craftsman Workshops, the center of Gustav Stickley's handmade furniture empire.

Syracuse University was chartered in 1870 as a Methodist-Episcopal institution.

The Geneva Medical College was founded in 1834. It is now known as Upstate Medical University, the most prestigious medical college in the Syracuse area, one of only four in the State University of New York system, and one of only five medical schools in the state north of New York City.

20th century[edit]

Children working in a Syracuse bowling alley, 1910. Photo by Lewis Hine.
The State Tower Building (rear), the city's tallest, completed in 1928
Syracuse is actively renovating former industrial areas into usable space today. One example is Franklin Square.

By the 20th century, Syracuse University was no longer sectarian and had grown from a few classrooms located in downtown Syracuse into a major research institution. It is nationally recognized for its college basketball, college football, and college lacrosse teams. In 1911, under the leadership of Syracuse University trustee, Louis Marshall, the New York State College of Forestry was reestablished in close association with Syracuse University; it since has evolved into the SUNY-ESF. Le Moyne College was founded in 1946; Onondaga Community College in 1962.

World War II sparked significant industrial expansion in the area: specialty steel, fasteners, custom machining. After the war, two of the Big Three automobile manufacturers (General Motors & Chrysler) had major operations in the area. Syracuse was headquarters for Carrier Corporation, Crouse-Hinds traffic signal manufacturing, and General Electric had its main television manufacturing plant at Electronics Parkway in Syracuse.

Syracuse's population peaked at 221,000 in 1950. That year, the Census Bureau reported Syracuse's population as 97.7% White and 2.1% African American.[8] Immigration from abroad introduced many ethnic groups to the city, particularly German, Irish, Italian, and Polish. African Americans had lived in Syracuse since Revolutionary War days, but between 1940 and 1960, some of the three million African Americans who migrated from the south to northern cities also settled in Syracuse. In the 1980s, many immigrants from Africa and Central America also moved to Syracuse, as they did to many northern cities — sometimes under the auspices of several religious charities. However, these new Syracusans could not make up for the flow of residents out of Syracuse, either to its suburbs or out of state, due to job loss. The city's population slowly decreases every year.

Much of the city fabric changed after World War II, although Pioneer Homes, one of the earliest government housing projects in the US, had been completed earlier, in 1941. Many of Syracuse's landmark buildings were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s. The federal Urban Renewal program cleared large sectors that remained undeveloped for many decades, although several new museums and government buildings were built.

The manufacturing industry in Syracuse began to falter in the 1970s. Many small businesses failed during this time, which contributed to an already increasing unemployment rate. Rockwell International moved their factory outside New York state. General Electric moved its television manufacturing operations to Suffolk, Virginia and later to Singapore. The Carrier Corporation moved its headquarters out of Syracuse and outsourced manufacturing to Asian locations. Nevertheless, although city population has declined since 1950, the Syracuse metropolitan area population has remained fairly stable, even growing by 2.5 percent since 1970. While this growth rate is greater than much of Upstate New York, it is far below the national average during that period.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gibson, Campbell (June 1998). "Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. Detailed Tables 8—21. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Syracuse city, New York – Population Finder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ http://www.tribunes.com/tribune/sel/bell.htm
  4. ^ a b http://ny.water.usgs.gov/pubs/fs/fs13900/FS139-00.pdf
  5. ^ "Our Founders" (PDF). City of Syracuse. 2004. 
  6. ^ Encyclopedia AMERICANA,vol.26,1968
  7. ^ a b The Jerry Rescue - New York History Net
  8. ^ "Race and Hispanic Origin for Selected Cities and Other Places: Earliest Census to 1990". U.S. Census Bureau. 

External links[edit]