Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Oldest Houses on Madison Street Demolished

Syracuse, NY. 1029 and 1037 Madison Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015
Syracuse, NY. 1029 and 1037 Madison Street, after demolitions. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Oldest Houses on Madison Street Demolished 
by Samuel D. Gruber

The two oldest houses on Madison Street on the Syracuse's Eastside, were recently demolished by their new owner without much notice or any comment.  The houses were tired-looking, but not derelict in anyway.  They have been income earning rentals for decades.
This block is also noteworthy for the Herbert Walker House (1911) at the corner with Walnut Ave. 

The removal of these houses continues the transformation of Madison Street from a street of private houses, to one to houses turned into (mostly student) rentals, and thence into larger apartment complexes and more surface parking. This is all part of the surging real estate and building boom on University Hill, where the expansion of University populations and the willingness of students (or their families) to pay to top dollar prices has made housing on The Hill more lucrative than ever.  

We'll be seeing more and more student apartment buildings - often five stories or more - in the next few years. One of these just went up on University Ave. between Madison Street and East Genesee, right across the from where the new Ronald McDonald House was built a few years ago. The last time a big wave of development swept this area was a century ago when the 900 block of Madison St. and some adjacent areas were rebuilt with Temple Concord (1911), the Sherbrooke Apartments (1914), the Madison School (1917), the Chaumont Apts (1928), the Washington Arms Apts (1928) and other buildings were erected - all before the Great Depression of the 1930s.
 
Syracuse, NY. 1029 and 1037 Madison Street. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011
   
My guess is that the two wood-frame Italianate houses were probably built some time between late 1860s through the early 1880s. I have not done detailed deed work to determine their actual date, but cube-shaped Italianate houses of this type either in wood or more expansive brick, often with expansions on the rear, were once common throughout the city. They survive most in areas where development pressures have been limited. Today they are gone from the downtown, and now with the removal of the houses on Madison, they are about gone from the Eastside, too. The largest number of similar houses can be found north of the former Eire Canal, in what is now the greater  Hawley-Green in the many area, and then further on the Northside on the many blocks of the old First Ward, near Washington Square.
Syracuse, NY. similar houses on the 1400 block of Spring Street (Northside). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2012

I have an office at Temple Concord on Madison Street and have walked and biked this block of Madison Street for years, all the while watching changes. When the owner of these house died recently, and then her estate sold her rental properties, I suspected that these structures were doomed to be replaced be something bigger and shinier - like the expansion of an old house at 116 Comstock Avenue right next door. That project in 2012, undertaken by William A. Osuchowski and his family real estate/rental firm OPR Property Management, changed a two-and-half story Queen Anne corner lot house into an three-and-a half story apartment building that covers twice the ground. The new structure - which is quite attractive in a new-old sort of way - incorporates some of the old structure (see photos),and  now has at least seven or eight units, some of which have three bedrooms and rent for over $2,000 per month. 

Syracuse, NY. 116 Comstock Ave. before transformation. Photo: Google
Syracuse, NY. 116 Comstock Ave. during transformation. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. 116 Comstock Ave. during transformation. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. 116 Comstock Ave. after transformation. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015

 Syracuse, NY. 1000 block of Madison Street showing two demolished houses next to bulk of 116 Comstock. Photo: Google
The now-demolished houses were, I believe, purchased by Osuchowski, who in January 2015 filed to have the three properties joined as one. That means the site of the two house may be developed, or they may be used for more surface parking, but I assume the former, since why would any buyer give the existing rental income? One can see from google maps how much surface parking has already been added to the 1100 block of Madison. This is a hillside site and the problem of water runoff needs to be considered. Certainly, this type of development if not done properly undermines any local gains of Onondaga County's Save the Rain program.

This type of transformation is inevitable in a neighborhood where there is such demand. Except for the Walnut Park area - which is a National Register Historic District and ideally should be locally protected -  most of the Hill has lost its historic integrity. The earlier appearance and atmosphere of the area cannot be saved or re-established. We can and should, however, have some design guidelines and design overview to with the goal that the neighborhood begin created today will have aesthetic and quality-of-life values in the future, as well as economic value in the short term. It would be good to see zoning, planning and design guidelines for the area applied not in a reactive piece-by-piece manner, but in a pro-active and more comprehensive way.

Perhaps the new ReZone Syracuse effort can address this? We also need to be attentive that the transformation of the 1000 and 1100 block of Madison Street does not spill over without serious review onto the 1200 block of Madison, which forms the northern boundary of Thornden Park, and beyond. Already on that block and further east the "remuddling" of many fine old houses has stripped the neighborhood of much of its visual stimulation.

I hope that whatever replaces the 19th-century Italianate houses on Madison Street can also last a century and look as good, and the money invested creates local jobs; and that income from the project gets reinvested in Syracuse as much as possible.

2 comments: