I took part in a summer internship project that began as a simple update to the City of Syracuse’s Historic Resources Inventory for the Historic Preservation Program. Historic resource inventories are an important part of preservation planning and a basic building block of local historic preservation programs. We reexamined nearly 1,800 properties that were initially surveyed between the late-1970s and 1993. While I worked full-time to organize the survey update, I was fortunate to have the help of three colleagues who visited Syracuse two days each week. Erin O’Grady (M.A. HPP ’09), Stephanie Smith (M.A. HPP ’10), and Anne Turcotte (M.R.P. ’10) – all familiar with historic resource surveys – provided invaluable help in the field, photographing sites and completing survey forms.
We quickly realized that the city needed a more effective way to organize their data on over 3,000 historic properties. I developed an Access database to store both the information we gathered and the data that the city has been collecting since the late-1970s. This database enabled us to map and analyze the survey results, will facilitate public access to the inventory via the city’s website in the future, and will allow the city to collect and analyze far more detailed information on properties in the future. Additionally, due to decades of staff turnover, a report was needed to summarize past inventory efforts, explain what data the city currently holds, summarize our findings, outline where future survey and inventory is needed, and highlight potential historic districts. This report is included here.
Syracuse, like many other Upstate New York cities, faces severe economic challenges. This survey update was prompted by strong pressure for demolition based on more than 1,400 vacant residential units, most in historic buildings and in the city’s core. Syracuse possesses a remarkable collection of historic buildings and its two most successful developments in recent years, Armory Square and Franklin Square, are actually large-scale, adaptive-reuse, historic rehabilitations in the downtown core. Many argue that the historic built environment, downtown and elsewhere, is one of Syracuse’s greatest assets. However, the downtown still faces high vacancy rates and the city is plagued by extreme income inequality. This concentration of poverty in the city’s oldest residential neighborhoods is a complex problem and highlights the often ignored relationship between historic preservation and regional planning.
-Katelyn Wright (M.R.P. HPP ’10)