5 Historic Places that Defined Syracuse

By Hannah Lees and Mary Olivia Keith

Syracuse has a long unique history — from the prosperous salt industry to the first time the New York State Fair was held here — that newcomers may not be aware of. And as the years darted by, the city’s downtown area also went through immense change. In reflection of that, here are five establishments that were once so integral to its identity.

1. Jiffy King Subs

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Located on the corner of North Clinton and West Genesee streets, Jiffy King was a local sandwich shop known for having the best subs in the area. It was inside the Buckley Building downtown, which the government took back in 1995 because of back taxes and was soon demolished after. The vacant space was turned into a public park in memory of Robert R. Haggart, a successful columnist for the Post-Standard newspaper. However, the memorial park is sinking, most likely as a result of Jiffy King being torn down and re-filled incorrectly.

2. Wieting Opera House

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In the 19th century, the Wieting Opera House, which is where the Atrium building is today, was a premier performing arts venue. It’s had an interesting history — it burned down three times and was rebuilt each time until it was finally demolished in 1930. Before it opened as an opera house, it stood as a lecture hall in a different location and hosted well-known figures including Frederick Douglass, who delivered a speech advocating for the emancipation of enslaved people, and Mark Twain, who gave a lecture on an American humorist. Gustav Mahler, a famous composer and the New York Philharmonic orchestra conductor, performed one of his last concerts here in 1910.

3. Yates Hotel

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In 1982, the Yates Hotel opened on Montgomery and East Washington streets. It was built by architect Archimedes Russell in the Renaissance Revival style and boasted six stories, an elegant interior, and new appliances for its time such as the ice machine. Because of an urban renewal project that brought new plazas and high-rise office buildings, the hotel was torn down in 1971. Its location is now used as a parking lot.

4. E.W. Edwards & Son

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This department store opened in 1889 on South Salina Street. It had seven floors and expanded to have a separate building for toys on South Warren Street. Inside, kids could ride on a monorail that went all the way around the building, and there was a tea room on the second floor. As part of an urban renewal project in 1972, the store moved to Clinton Street where the Atrium building is now. The store eventually filed for bankruptcy and was demolished in 1973.

5. Hanover Square

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Underground “comfort stations” or restrooms, complete with heating and lighting, were installed in Hanover Square in 1915. There were separate entrances for men and women, which led down a flight of stairs to the restrooms. The city couldn’t afford to keep the restrooms in operation so they were ultimately demolished in the 1960s. The spot where the entrances were located is currently a park with a fountain and sitting area.

Illustrations by Micah Castelo
Featured image courtesy of WikiCommons
Sources: Syracuse Then and Now, CNY History, The Department Store Museum, Freethought Trail, Syracuse Walking Tour