Erie Boulevard started its history as the Erie Canal, a pet project of New York Governor Dewitt Clinton. Stretching from the Hudson River to Buffalo, it was the engine for economic activity in upstate New York through most of the 19th century and turned Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo into major metropolitan areas.
The Weighlock Building was used to determine tolls on the Erie Canal. A drydock mechanism measured the gross weight of a canal boat. They then subtracted the registered weight of the ship to calculate the net weight of the cargo. The building ended its function as a weighlock in 1883. The scale was removed in 1906 and New York state's Good Roads (later Department of Transportation) program remained until 1957. The building was abandoned but saved by the support of Syracusans. It was converted into the Erie Canal Museum in 1962.
On July 30, 1907, the bottom of the Erie Canal broke open where it crossed over Onondaga Creek. Millions of gallons of water in the man-made canal emptied through the breach into the natural creek below, the rushing waters sweeping the four boats then in the lock into each other and collapsing walls on two mills on its banks. The break closed the canal for more than a month before repairs could be completed and traffic resumed.
Much of the land on Erie Boulevard remains unused today, especially close to downtown. Some badly overgrown lots are larger than city blocks downtown.
Erie Boulevard closer to Thompson Road -- the city limit -- still has many vacant buildings and lots.
Where Erie Boulevard and Almond Street intersect, the L.C. Smith Company began manufacturing Smith Premier typewriters in 1889. This typewriter factory was the largest in the world in its day. L.C. Smith merged with the Corona company of Groton, NY to become Smith-Corona in 1926. The company became Smith Corona Marchant in 1958 before becoming SCM in 1962. It eventually became Smith Corona again but could not compete with foreign manufacturers. The company ceased manufacturing in 1997.
Syracuse was apparently a hotbed of typewriter activity during the late 19th century. In addition to Smith Corona, Monarch Typewriter Company, Remington Typewriter Company and Crandall Machine Company were also based here. Monarch had its factory in Franklin Square. That building has since been converted to Mission Landing, a luxury condominium development with asking prices of up to a million dollars per space. Remington had its factory on Dickerson Street just southwest of downtown, now the site of a Rescue Mission recreation center.
The Smith factory, later renamed Midtown Plaza, was host to various businesses and schools after Smith Corona left. Onondaga Community College admitted its first class of 500 freshmen there in 1962 and remained until building its own campus in 1973. It sat vacant from 1981 until it was demolished in 1999. During that time, over a thousand newly installed plate glass windows were smashed. Its whitewashed exterior made popular references to it as Downtown’s “white elephant” even more appropriate. A 1913 steam engine salvaged from the building is one of the few remnants still in existence. Six years later, SU is finally ready to begin construction on the site for its Syracuse Center of Excellence.
On the block bounded by Erie Boulevard East, East Water Street, University Avenue and Walnut Avenue, there was once an Polynesian-themed restaurant and nightclub. The restaurant was razed in the 1960s or 1970s. Today, the entire block is a wide, featureless, grassy median that no longer even has sidewalks. Because of its exposure to the traffic of Erie Boulevard, it makes for a poor location to relax.
(above) "Shangri-La East Gardens - 1104 Erie Blvd., E. at Univ. Ave. - Syracuse, N.Y. - TEL. 476-4244 - An adventure in decor. Delightful and warm. American and Polynesian food. Tropical drinks. Intriguing, delicious, taste pleasers. Open weekdays - noon 'til 1 a.m. Weekends 'til 3 a.m. - Music and Dancing"
(right) "Explorer East - 1104 Erie Blvd E.
An Adventure in Decor -- Delightful and Warm Intriguing, Delicious, Taste Pleasers
American & Polynesian Foods - Explore the Exotic Tropical Drinks"