Fayette Street is the main east-west street running through downtown. It runs through Common Center and defines the northern border of Armory Square.
Between Bank Alley and South Warren Street stood the US Government Building, the precursor to the Federal Building. Syracuse's main post office was housed in the building until 1928, when the massive, new main post office on the west side of Clinton Square was completed, a sign of Syracuse's ascension in the early part of the century. Its thick stone walls made it one of the strongest buildings in Syracuse. It took four years to build and four months to disassemble. The former Merchants Bank building was built on the site in 1962 and has not had a tenant in its cavernous first floor since the bank moved out. Its last apparent use was to store the unpainted fiberglass horses for the Horses on Parade event in 2001. That event underscored the terrible weakness of the Syracuse economy. Although over 100 horses had been hoped for, only 34 Syracuse companies ultimately sponsored entries. At a fundraising auction after the event, most of the completed horses raised substantially less than what it cost to mold, paint, and transport them. Jon E. of Camillus writes, "They would have been better off giving the money straight to the charities."
Another Gothic Revival style building stood across Fayette Street from the post office, at the corner of Bank Street, barely visible in the last two pictures above. The four story building shared many characteristics with the lauded White Memorial Building, such as ridge cresting on the roof. A grand, open central stairway dominated the interior. As with many downtown buildings in the 1970s and 1980s, the owner was unable to find tenants for it and it fell into disrepair. The imposing structure was torn down in the early 1990s to create a parking lot for Excellus, which had already expanded up the block but had previously stopped its expansion at the building. Today, a three-story high brick wall at the rear of the parking lot shows the height of the older building reached.
Fayette Park began its life as a swamp, like many areas of Syracuse. But by the turn of the century, it was a stately park and the center of one of Syracuse's most desirable residential districts. Families with names in Syracuse history had their mansions here, including William W. Teall, Mrs. Horace White and John Crouse, would donated what is now the Crouse College for the Arts building at SU and whom some considered the wealthiest man in Syracuse at his death in 1889, the same year Crouse College was built. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported his wealth would make him a multimillionaire today. Historic buildings still ring the park, including the Hamilton White house, the University Club, the New York Telephone building and the Boy's Club.
The 100, 200 and 300 blocks of East Genesee Street were gradually eliminated or closed to traffic between 1960 and 1980. The 300 block was the most dramatically transformed. The Merchants Bank drive-thru, built in 1949 as one of the earliest in the state, once shared a triangular block with the Hills Building. East Genesee Street separated that block from a second triangular block which was filled with small buildings, visible in the background of the second picture.
By the time of the third picture, after the construction of the State Office Building in 1956, all of those small buildings had fallen to the wrecking ball, although Genesee was still open and visible. In the 1960s, the Merchants drive-thru was also demolished. That section of Genesee was permanently eliminated as the two triangular blocks were merged into a rectangular one. What became popularly known as the New York Telephone building was constructed to supplement the company's original Syracuse facility one block to the northeast. Today, the third view is impossible because it is obstructed by this building. NYNEX, which had been created by a merger of New York Telephone and New England Telephone, stopped leasing space in the building circa 1990. The owner of the building was unable to find a replacement tenant in Syracuse's weak economy. The building has been unoccupied since then and the city's efforts to seize the property for back taxes were held up for years by bankruptcy proceedings. The building, 300 East Washington Street, is now renting space again, although no major tenants have shown interest.
The College of Medicine opened in 1896 at 610 East Fayette Street. In 1937, the college moved to Irving Avenue and the building was renovated for SU's continuing education program, which became University College in 1946. It was renamed Peck Hall after one of the founders of SU. The Syracuse Dispensary opened in 1914 at East Genesee and McBride Streets. It was also renovated for University College in 1947. In 1957, it received its current name, Reid Hall. University College vacated the two buildings in 1998 to move closer to SU's main campus.
The new Central New York Charter School for Math and Science, operated by Beacon Education Managment, moved into the buildings in 2001. Beacon merged with another company to form Chancellor-Beacon Academies before being acquired by Imagine Schools. Despite praise from students and parents, the school's performance lagged. It closed in June 2005, leaving 536 students to re-enter the public school system. The school system, which had borrowed $6.6 million to open the school, was left with a $6 million debt and two unwanted buildings. Teachers and staff said that Imagine charged very high management fees but had almost no involvement in the actual management. After the closure in June, teachers were notified that they would not be getting final paychecks. Only after the state Attorney General began an investigation did the school's board pay more than $420,000 in back wages and benefits. ("Central New York Charter School pays up," Greg Munro, Post-Standard, 8/10/05)
One of the school's founders and early board members, Ross Whaley, noted that the school never attracted the students it was intended for. Rather than students who needed faster progress than Syracuse schools provided, it drew some of the worst students, whose parents laid the blame for their failure at the school district's feet. By taking the school away from its original mission of "project based learning" for adept students, the parents sabotaged the school with underperforming test scores that could not fulfill early promises and led to the revocation of its charter. In fact, the report below notes that the school's performance was as much as 50% worse than the district in general, thanks to the high concentration of unresponsive students. Early articles noted teaching was usually remedial rather than advanced and that disruptive behavior was common.
In a report recommending closure of the school, the SUNY Board of Trustees wrote: "At the end of its fourth year of operation, CNYCS continues to fall far short of the academic outcome objectives set forth in its Accountability Plan, which called for 75% of students enrolled for two or more years to perform at or above Level 3 on NYS math assessment. In actuality, in the 2003 administration of the test, only 40% of such students enrolled performed at Level 3, and none performed at Level 4. The Plan also called for a greater percentage of CNYCS students enrolled in the school for two or more years to perform at or above Level 3 than students in the Syracuse School District; in actuality, significantly more students scored at Level 3 or above in the district than in CNYCS. In English Language Arts, the Plan called for 75% of students enrolled to perform at Level 3 or above on the NYS English Language Arts assessment. In 2003, a remarkably low 19% of such students performed at Level 3 or 4. The school also failed to meet its comparative measure of ELA performance; 39% of students in the Syracuse school district performed at Levels 3 and 4 in 2003, compared to the school’s 19%."
The Kirk Hotel at the corner of West Fayette and South Clinton Street was built circa 1870. It has fallen on hard times, earning a reputation as a seedy residential hotel. Across South Clinton Street from the Kirk is a parking lot where once stood the grander Hotel St. Cloud. Its neighbor, the Donohue Building at 312-316 South Clinton, was, like the Dome Hotel, empty for nearly 20 years despite its distinguished architecture.