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(315) 451-9500
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About Syracuse

Syracuse is a city in Central New York, USA. According to the 2000 census, the city population was 147,306, and its metropolitan area had a population of 732,117. It is the county seat of Onondaga County and the economic and educational hub of Central New York, a region with over a million inhabitants. Syracuse is also well provided with convention sites, with a downtown convention complex and the Empire Expo Center directly west of the city, which hosts the annual Great New York State Fair. Syracuse was named after the original Syracuse, a city on the eastern coast of Sicily, Italy, with which it shares some similarities, including a formerly important salt industry and a neighboring town of Salina.

A view of the Downtown Syracuse skyline

 

The city has functioned as a major crossroads over the last two centuries, first between the Erie Canal and its branch canals, then of the railway network. Today, Syracuse is located by the intersection of Interstates 90 and 81, and its airport is the largest in the region.

Syracuse is home to Syracuse University, a major research university, as well as several smaller colleges and professional schools.

History

The Syracuse area was first seen by Europeans when French missionaries came to the area in the 1600s. 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 Gannentaha, on the northeast shore of Onondaga Lake, at the invitation of the Onondaga Nation, one of the five constituent members of the Iroquois confederacy.

The State Tower Building in Syracuse (rear).
The State Tower Building in Syracuse (rear).

The mission was short lived, as the Mohawk Nation hinted to the Onondaga that they should sever their ties to the French, or the Onondaga's guests would suffer some horrible fate. The men in the mission caught wind of this and left under cover of a cold night in March. Their entire stay was 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, and Asa Danforth, another revolutionary war hero, and Comfort Tyler, whose enginerring 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. Salt was discovered in several swamps in Syracuse, which brought more settlers to the area, and eventually gave the city the nickname "Salt City".

Syracuse during its golden years. This picture is of South Salina Street circa 1915.
Syracuse during its golden years. This picture is of South Salina Street circa 1915.

The original settlement 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. In 1848, Syracuse merged with nearby Salina to become the City of Syracuse. The opening of the canal caused a steep increase in the sale of salt, not simply due to the improved and lower cost of transportation, but because the canal caused New York farms to change from wheat to pork, and curing pork required salt. As salt production climbed, the processing became increasingly mechanized, and local industry became more generalized; population grew to 5,000 by 1850, from 250 in 1820, making it the twelfth largest city in the Union.

Jerry Rescue Monument, Syracuse.
Jerry Rescue Monument, Syracuse.
Syracuse is actively renovating former industrial areas into usable space today. One successful example is Franklin Square.
Syracuse is actively renovating former industrial areas into usable space today. One successful example is Franklin Square.

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 in Syracuse, as well as with Quakers in nearby Skaneateles, supported as well by abolitionists in many other religious congregations. Prior to the Civil War, due to the work of Jermain Wesley Loguen and others in defiance of federal law, Syracuse was known 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 broke into the city jail and freed Jerry. The event came to be widely known as the "Jerry Rescue".

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, and the Craftsman Workshops, the center of Gustav Stickley's handmade furniture empire.

Syracuse University was chartered in 1870 as a Methodist-Episcopal institution; no longer sectarian, it has grown from a few classrooms located in downtown Syracuse into a major research institution. 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. 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. General Electric moved its manufacturing operations 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.

Economy

AXA is not one of the region's top ten employers, but the AXA towers and weather beacon are a prominent piece of the Syracuse skyline.
AXA is not one of the region's top ten employers, but the AXA towers and weather beacon are a prominent piece of the Syracuse skyline.

Syracuse's economy has faced challenges over the past decades as industrial jobs have left the area. The number of local and state government jobs also have been declining for several years. Syracuse's top employers are now primarily in education and in the service industry. University Hill is Syracuse's fastest growing neighborhood, fueled by expansions by Syracuse University and Upstate Medical University (a division of the State University of New York), as well as dozens of small medical office complexes.

Colleges and universities

Syracuse's major research university, and its largest employer, is Syracuse University, located on University Hill. It had an enrollment of 19,082 for the 2006-2007 academic year[11]

Surrounding Syracuse University are two State University (SUNY) schools, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Also in Syracuse are Le Moyne College on the city's eastern border, and Onondaga Community College, which has its main campus in the city's Elmwood neighborhood, along with two smaller campuses downtown and in Liverpool. A branch of SUNY's Empire State College is located in downtown Syracuse, along with a campus of the nationwide Bryant & Stratton College. A campus of ITT Technical Institute also calls the Syracuse metropolitan area home, also located in Liverpool.

Other colleges and universities in the area include Cornell University and Ithaca College in Ithaca, Hamilton College in Clinton, Oswego State University in Oswego, SUNY Cortland in Cortland, Morrisville State College in Morrisville, Colgate University in Hamilton, Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, Wells College in Aurora, and both Utica College and SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica.


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