Your Hometown: Syracuse's Sedgwick Farm Neighborhood
As the city of Syracuse grew, its residents started setting up their homes further from downtown. One of the more desired locations was Sedgwick Farm, which featured the new concept of winding streets and cul-de-sacs. In this Segment of Your Hometown, our Katie Gibas takes us to one of the most architecturally significant residential neighborhoods in the city of Syracuse.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Sedgwick is a quiet neighborhood where time seems to have stood still for the last century. It was Syracuse's first residential historic district; and, its founding is thanks to a husband and wife who purchased the 80 acres of land that made up the core of that community.
"In 1858, Charles and Deborah Sedgwick moved to what was then upper James Street. They named their new home Sedgwick farm," said Elizabeth Crawford, who is a preservation Architect at Crawford & Sterns. She is also a board member on the Preservation Association of CNY.
"They basically had it as an orchard and a farm and an area for the kids to play," said Stephen Buechner, who is the one who put together the Sedgwick-Highland-James preservation district. He was also the first chair of the Landmark Preservation Board.
Charles was a prominent lawyer in Syracuse. He and his wife Deborah were active abolitionists. However, there isn't any evidence that the Sedgwick homestead was ever part of the Underground Railroad. Charles died in the 1880s, leaving behind Deborah and their 15 grandchildren.
"She developed part of her land there as a playground for the children and the grandchildren, including tennis courts," said Crawford.
In 1901, Deborah died, leaving the land to her children, who formed the Sedgwick Farm Land Company.
"I'm not sure what would have happened to the property had their children not developed the land company," said Crawford.
The land company developed streets and sewers, and the 80-acre estate was broken up into several lots.
"People were looking for something different than the gridline streets that were typical in cities. Sedgwick farm was laid out with curvilinear streets, a little bit larger house lots," said Crawford.
The homes were designed by the area's leading architects. Many of Syracuse's wealthy moved to the neighborhood to get away from the hustle of downtown.
"Neighborhoods very close to downtown, like Montgomery Street, had big houses. And, it was dirty and dusty and you closed up your house, so you didn't get the dirt from the streets in your house. And even though it was only a mile and a half out of downtown, the air was fresher at the top of the James Street hill," said Crawford.
The neighborhood was very restrictive on what could be built in the development. Restaurants, stores and offices weren't allowed. Those restrictions continue today.
"The founders wanted to keep it totally housing," said Buechner. He added, "It's restrictive as to what you can do with the exteriors of the house to try to keep it the same as it’s always been"
In 1976, Stephen Buechner, formed the Sedgwick-Highland-James preservation district to do just that.
"What we want to see is this neighborhood preserved and we want, want to, see it vibrant," said Buechner.
Those who live in the neighborhood stay for the charm. They hope its character stays the same as it has for the last century, for at least 100 years more.