Syracuse, New York, (population 146,435) located on the southern shore of Onondaga Lake, was incorporated in 1848. As early as the mid 1600s, area settlers began commercial production of salt after being shown the local salt springs. The industry thrived for nearly 150 years, earning Syracuse the nickname “The Salt City.” Syracuse later became a hub of the nation’s first super highway, the Erie Canal. Rail soon replaced the canal, and the city continued to thrive, due to its central location and diversified manufacturing, including the production of automobiles, typewriters, and fine china.
Syracuse boasts 10 districts listed on the National Register of Historical Places. In fact, Syracuse has long considered historic preservation a priority and integral to its future. A fine example is historic Clinton Square, which has been transformed into the heart of the culture scene. Thanks to more than $900,000 in federal transportation planning funding, the Square has become a pedestrian-friendly zone and a site where festivals celebrating cultural heritage are held year-round.
Museums throughout the city keep local history alive. The Onondaga Historical Association Museum and Research Center offers exhibits and programs and is located in downtown Syracuse, contributing to the vitality of the historic area. The Erie Canal Museum, housed in the historic Weighlock Building, offers canal-related educational programs, exhibits, and collections. This museum features docent-led tours and covers Erie Canal and New York state history, the Syracuse salt industry, and city development.
The Erie Canal Museum also serves as the Syracuse Heritage Area Visitor Center and provides maps and other cultural heritage resources. Syracuse is one of just 19 designated heritage areas in New York, recognized for distinctive contributions to the history and culture of the state by the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
In order to protect the area’s history, the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board regulates any material change in appearance to any property in a Local Preservation District or to any property designated a Local Protected Site. The board reviews demolition proposals and recommends designation of Local Protected Sites and Local Preservation Districts.
Syracuse was selected for a Preserve America Grant in January 2009. This grant will be used to implement a strategic program designed to encourage tourism, patronage, commerce, and occupancy in its historic downtown. Products will include brochures and maps that share the history of the historic districts, describe walking tours, and promote downtown businesses within the historic districts. Also included are an enhanced Web site for visitors, planning assistance for downtown property owners, and an expanded promotional campaign.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2008.