The Sedgwick neighborhood was Syracuse's first residential local historic district. Here is found the City's most beautiful and significant collection of 20th century residential design. The homes represent some of the finest works by Syracuse architects and builders, including Ward Wellington Ward, Dwight James Baum, Paul Hueber, Bonta and Taylor, Archimedes Russell, and Harry King.
The architectural and landscaping diversity of Sedgwick Farms are its hallmark. Along winding roadways, cul-de-sacs, and city streets are wonderful examples of Italianate, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival styles.
In 1977, when the area was first established as the City's largest preservation district, it was necessary to document the basis for this designation. The following information is excerpted from the Report of the Landmark Preservation Board.
Description of the Preservation District
The proposed Sedgwick-James-Highland [sic] Preservation District contains approximately 285 residences, one church, Lincoln Junior High School and a number of business establishments (several of which are residential conversions). The district divides itself into three distinct but contiguous sections: Upper James Street, the original Sedgwick Farms Land Tract and a contiguous length of Highland Avenue with its side streets - Oak and DeWitt. The three areas are unified by the continuity of their architectural styles and neighborhood character. The residences in these areas are among the finest in the City and approximately 95% of them were built in the first three decades of the Twentieth Century imparting a distinctive architectural flavor to the district of Tudor, Colonial Revival and Spanish Revival styles.
Highland and James Streets, laid out in the 19th Century, parallel each other, forming a southwest-northeast axis for the district. Extending north from the center section of this axis is the Sedgwick Farms Tract.
The Highland Avenue area of the District extends from the western district boundary at Graves Street along Highland Avenue to DeWitt Street where the district boundary expands to encompass the original Sedgwick Farms Tract. Highland Avenue parallels James Street running for a total length of three blocks from the intersection with Highland Street (at the head of the old Rose Hill cemetery) to DeWitt Street. Highland also intersects with Graves and Oak Streets.
Highland Avenue constitutes the oldest developed portion of the district and contains the district's most striking 19th Century homes. Of particular note is the grouping of four Italianate homes mid-block between Oak and Graves Street on the north side of Highland Avenue The Lyman Stephens House at 213 Highland Avenue was constructed c. 1856 and is one of the finest remaining pre-Civil War mansions in Syracuse It is of the Italianate villa style in its form and massing, but exhibits a Romanesque Revival influence in its arcaded corbel table beneath the wide, bracketed eaves. The interior of the house contains many intricate plasterwork details and is presently maintained in excellent condition.
Stephens, who was a prosperous salt manufacturer and Mayor of Syracuse in 1855, also built the three houses immediately to the west of his residence in 1874. These homes, which Stephens constructed for his daughters and their families, are more characteristic of the Italian villa style popular in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The house at 209 Highland retains its original entry porch, while its "twins" to the west have been modified through the addition of larger porches at the turn of the century. Together these four residences form a unique grouping which is not duplicated elsewhere in Syracuse.
The remaining homes along Highland Avenue date principally from the turn of the century and represent Tudor, Colonial and Georgian Revival styles. The J. E. Masters House at 217 Highland was constructed in 1867 and is a simple, but intact Italian villa home (occupying a key corner location (intersection of Highland and DeWitt Streets).
Oak Street, which intersects with Highland Avenue, contains several properties north and south of that intersection which fall within the District boundary. This portion of Oak Street retains its early twentieth century residential character for the most part, although several residences have been converted to other uses (principally business and professional offices).
Of particular note are 526 Oak Street which is an excellent example of the Georgian Revival Style featuring Ionic pilasters and intricate dentilation beneath the cornice and eaves of the front pediment and 528 Oak Street which is more Neo-Classic in influence with an impressive two-story portico.
Other residences on this portion of Oak Street also reflect Georgian or Neo-Classic elements popular for larger residences at the beginning of this century.
DeWitt Street which forms a T intersection with Highland Avenue at its eastern junction continues the pattern of large older residences constructed between 1900 and 1930. DeWitt also forms the western boundary of the original Sedgwick Farms Tract. Lower DeWitt Street (near its intersection with Highland) contains the larger and more pretentious homes built prior to 1920.
As the street continues northward along the western edge of the proposed Preservation District, the homes are smaller in size, but characterized by the larger lots found in the Sedgwick Farms Tract. Georgian and Classic Revival style homes are found on DeWitt Street as well as a number of residences showing a Tudor influence. Among the most notable of these structures is the William B. Gere residence at 112 DeWitt Street (northeast corner of DeWitt and James Streets) which is a large Georgian style manor with hipped roof and dormers. The house, which was constructed in 1912, marks the entrance to the Preservation District as one travels east on James Street.
The Edward B. Salmon residence at 308 DeWitt Street was designed by Syracuse architect Ward W. Ward and constructed in 1915. Ward designed a number of residences in the Sedgwick Farms area. He is considered by many to be one of the finest local architects of the period. The Salmon residence is a particularly distinctive example of Ward's design ability as reflected in its English cottage style with a unique two-story, arcaded staircase window.
Sedgwick Farms Tract:
The Sedgwick Farms Tract which makes up the bulk of the proposed Preservation District is unique not only for the large number of fine early twentieth century residences which characterize the tract, but also for its contribution to residential land planning. The Sedgwick Farms Land Company, which developed the tract, between 1900 and 1925 employed a unique curvilinear street pattern which departed from the "traditional" block-grid system in use in Syracuse from the early 19th century.
Lot sizes within the tract were also much larger than those employed elsewhere in the city with most lots measuring approximately 75 ft. (frontage) x 200 ft. (depth). (Typical city lots developed just outside of the tract at the same time and employing the standard grid measured 44 ft. x 115 ft.). These larger lots coupled with the more irregular street pattern provided a feeling of spaciousness not found elsewhere in the City.
Sedgwick Drive was designed as the principal entry to the Tract from James Street. The grassy, tree-lined median on Sedgwick Drive provides a parkway effect which not only provides visual excitement, but serves to direct traffic through the Tract.
The architectural character of Sedgwick Farms is again reflective of the style and construction of residences popular during the early part of this century. Many fine examples of Georgian, Neo-Classic, Spanish-Colonial and Tudor styles are represented here. Dwight James Baum and Ward W. Ward, two of the more prominent local architects, designed homes in the Tract.
Although many fine individual residences such as the Tracy House at 105 Sedgwick Drive (re-designed in the Georgian style by D J.Baum in 1918) and the George Felt residence at 109 Wendell Terrace (designed in the Spanish Colonial style) are found in Sedgwick Farms, it is in the total composition that the architectural importance of the district is most evident. The pattern of streets, the use of landscape design and view and the varied yet harmonious architecture define the early twentieth century character of the district.
The principal streets which compose the Sedgwick Farms Tract include Sedgwick Drive which forms the main entrance to the tract and major north-south drive, Brattle Road which begins at its intersection with DeWitt Street and runs to the northeast, Rugby Road which parallels the northern boundary of the original Sedgwick Farms Tract, Wendell Terrace and Farmer Street. Hampshire Road is wholly contained within the original Sedgwick Farms Tract.
Burlingame Road pre-dates the planning and construction of the remainder of the tract by the Sedgwick Farms Land Company. It originally served as a private drive for the few farm houses located adjacent to it. It retains much of its original character and appearance, and is a pleasant contrast to other residential streets in the Tract.
-Historical photo of Sedgwick Farms Tract-
The James Street portion of the proposed Sedgwick-Highland-James Preservation District contains properties fronting on James Street (both north and south of the street) from DeWitt Street easterly to the intersection of James Street and Teall Avenue. This section of James Street also contains a variety of residences constructed principally between 1900 and l930 (several of which have been converted to businesses). The homes here are an extension of the nineteenth century mansions which once lined lower James Street until the destruction of most of them after 1950.
Again, the Spanish Colonial, Tudor and Georgian Revival sty1es are well represented. The former Benjamin Chase residence at 1111 James by D J. Baum is one of the finer Spanish Colonial homes in the city. It serves as a transition point between Sedgwick Farms and upper James Street, and demonstrates the architectural unity of the two areas. Other residences along James Street exemplify this continuity including the Edward Weinheimer residence executed in an eclectic manner with Tudor influences in 1923 at 1419 James Street, and the smaller William Crocker Residence at 1301 James Street (corner of James and Sedgwick) with its simple, picturesque cottage style. Together, these and the other residences along this portion of James Street continue the architectural theme set on Highland Avenue and in Sedgwick Farms.
Significance of the Preservation District
The proposed Sedgwick-Highland-James Preservation District is significant to the Syracuse community for several reasons. Firstly, the district is illustrative of the residential development of the city for an eighty year period extending from the late 1850's to the mid 1930's. Changes in architectural tastes, land planning and life style of the residents during this period continue to be reflected in the district. In addition, the proposed district was and continues to be the home of many prominent business, civic and governmental leaders.
Secondly, Sedgwick-Highland-James survives as one of the most important, intact collections of fine residential architecture in the city. Many of Syracuse's most distinguished examples of picturesque Cottage, Spanish Colonial Revival, Tudor and Georgian Revival Style residences are represented here. These homes additionally reflect many of the best works of Syracuse architects and builders of the period. It would be impossible today to duplicate the design sensitivity, craftsmanship and skill of the majority of the structures within the district.
Thirdly, the proposed district exemplifies an early and successful experiment in environmental design which continues as a model today. The architectural compatibility of the structures within the district is heightened by the irregular street pattern, larger building lots and sensitive landscape design. The proposed Sedgwick-Highland-James Preservation District reflects the eclectic character of a fine late nineteenth and early twentieth century neighborhood. The district's visual appeal and continuity of architectural expression impart a unique identity to the Sedgwick-Highland-James area and makes a significant contribution to the community as a whole.
One prominent institution within the neighborhood since its inception has been the Sedgwick Farm Tennis Club. The Club, now located at 422 Dewitt Street, was formed in the 1890s and was originally located in a small structure on the site of the present 202 Sedgwick Drive. In 1909 a new clubhouse designed by prominent local architect James A. Randall was constructed on the present site. The current "attractive modern colonial" building which replaced the second clubhouse dates from the early 1950s and was designed by architect Barbara Lewis. [This information was derived from a 6/22/52 Post-Standard article at the Onondaga Historical Association.]
Note, however, that the 1908 city atlas shows no structure at the 202 Sedgwick Drive address yet there is a building at the 422 Dewitt Street location which matches the size, shape, and placement of the clubhouse there on the 1924 atlas.] In the collections of the Onondaga Historical Association is a promotional brochure prepared by the Sedgwick Farm Land Company and entitled Sedgwick Farm . This brochure provides some interesting insights into the development and design philosophies of the neighborhood's founders. In addition to a brief history of the property and the Land Company, thumbnail photographs of James Street and houses already constructed, and descriptions of the health benefits of living away from manufacturing sites and commercial transportation routes it includes the following statements.
Unlike many places which may be good in themselves, but are surrounded by unattractive outlooks, the environments of Sedgwick Farm are most desirable. Along both James and Dewitt Streets many of the handsomest houses in the city have been built, a few of which are shown in this book. These, together with the many beautiful homes already on the property, assure a good neighborhood.
The Company's plans have taken into account everything which may tend to the ultimate beauty, healthfulness and protection of Sedgwick Farm. The carefully placed streets, dividing the property into attractive sections and lots, together with a perfect sewer system for the entire section, have already guaranteed this.
Section A, or all of the property south of Farmer Street has already been completely improved. Every lot will have a cement sidewalk and a street paved with macadam, with concrete curb and gutters in front of it, together with water and sewer connections. These improvements are paid for by the Company so that the purchaser will be exempt from the usual assessments made for such improvements.
All property sold is subject to certain restrictions calculated to be to the mutual advantage of all owners of houses on this property.
These references clearly demonstrate the developers' intention to create a compatible, pleasing, healthful, designed community and the final paragraph clearly states their understanding of the need for restrictions to the "mutual advantage of all."
The brochure referenced may date from c. 1908-09 since many houses are shown, but the "new" Club, which was built in 1909, is included as an artist's rendering only. Additional historical information and descriptions of some of the houses in the district have been taken (by permission of, and with thanks to, the author) from Eva Marie Hardin's book Syracuse Landmarks.