North Syracuse is the first village north of the City of Syracuse and is situated on the road to Watertown and the North Country.
Long ago when the Indians inhabited our country, what we now know as Main Street was an Indian footpath – the “Thousand Island Trail” that went from Pennsylvania to the St. Lawrence River. It played an important part in the early history and development of northern New York. As settlers moved in, this Indian Trail was widened, but in the spring and fall heavy rains made the trail extremely muddy and the resulting deep ruts made the trail almost impassable. To improve the trail, the worst places in the roadbed were filled with stones and dirt, and logs and heavy branches were laid crossways to raise the roadway. Another layer of dirt and stones was shoveled on top of this; the resulting product being aptly named a Corduroy Road.
From the Corduroy Road, by an Act of the Legislation in 1812, the “Salt Road” was opened from the Old Salina Bank, corner of Wolf and North Salina Streets, to Brewerton. By 1826, a few people had settled in the area. The settlement was known as Podunk. The first two settlers on record were Eli Myers and Alfred Tilly. James Millard settled west of here about 1810 and John Slosson settled between Cicero and Podunk in 1814.
One landmark was the “Old Red Tavern” built by Peter Weaver about 1827. The building was on the southwest corner of the intersection of the State Road (Route #11) and the Liverpool Road (Taft Road) at stop 6, now the southern limit of our corporate Village where the Sweetheart Store now stands. The tavern was the stopping place for hundreds of teams loaded with salt barrels from the North Country, which came rolling in all times of day or night on their way to the salt blocks in Salina.
On April 12, 1844 the “Salt Road” was taken over by the Salina and Central Square Plank Road Company. The first plank road in the United States was finished and ready for travel on July 18, 1846. The road cost $23,000, was 16-1/2 miles long and planked its entire length. Thomas Alvord, State Legislator, who later became Lieutenant Governor helped secure the passage of an Act to construct, maintain and collect tolls. There were four tollgates about four miles apart that were operated by the company which was a profitable enterprise for many years. The fees were 1 cent per head of cattle, 5 cents for a single horse, and 25 cents for a horse and wagon.
There was a dirt side and planked side to the road; the East Side was dirt and the West Side planked 3″ thick by 8′ long. Loaded wagons had the right of way on the planked side, the other side being reserved for empty wagons, single horses and for passing. Bicycles used the plank side on Sunday for racing. Due to wear and tear by horses’ shoes and iron hoops on wagon wheels, a gang was constantly busy just making repairs.
Today the Villagers are awakened by auto horns in the dead of the night, in those days it was the creaking of the heavily loaded wagons and pounding of horses’ hooves on the plank road which disturbed their sleep.
The real beginning
The real beginning of the Village was the activity aroused by the opening of this Plank Road and “Podunk” became “Centerville” in 1896 with two streets running off the Plank Road. The new post office was called the Plank Road Post Office in honor of the novel highway just completed and was located in the Palmer House, which was at 210 South Main Street. The Onondaga Directory of 1868-1869 states:
Centerville (Plank Road P.O.) situated in the eastern part of the Town of Clay contains two churches, one school, a steam sawmill and about 60 houses. From other sources we learn there was a general store, two blacksmiths, three wagon shops, two taverns or hotels, and a physician, L. B. Skinner. There was a Lodge of Masons, a rural cemetery and a union graded school. The Union School, organized in 1869, was a two-story frame building costing $3,000 and comprised several districts in Clay and Cicero. There were 95 students and Charles E. Jewell was the first principal.
The Village retained the name of “Centerville” until about 1880 when citizens requested the Postmaster General to grant a change to its present name of “North Syracuse.”
In 1907, the next important event affecting the Village was the completion of the Syracuse and South Bay Trolley line. The first fares were collected on August 27, 1907. This ended the usefulness of the old stagecoach which for many years had carried mail and passengers to and from the city. It still carried mail for a time until arrangements were made with the trolley company to take mailbags, when the old stage was abandoned except to appear on parade as a relic of the past. The Trolley would stop at the Trolley Station on South Bay Road and Church Street before continuing on to Oneida Lake. The Old Trolley Station/Power House has been renovated and is now used as a Community Center and is in constant use by many organizations and groups for meetings, wedding receptions, etc.
North Syracuse was the first Village in NYS to establish a fire district. Our first Volunteer Fire Department was started in 1913 and as equipment it had two hand drawn chemical fire engines. The firemen were called to fires by a huge steel tire off a locomotive, which was hit by a large sledgehammer. At that time all of the apparatus was kept in a building located where the Andrews Memorial Methodist Church now stands on Church Street. Later the Fire Department moved to the site of the old trolley station at the corner of South Bay and Church Streets, and then in 1982 a new building was erected on Chestnut Street, where the fire department is now situated. Station II was built in 1995 on Thompson Road. Today our firemen are highly qualified with NYS training and we have one of the finest fire departments in the State.
The Village of North Syracuse was incorporated on November 30, 1925, an area extending one-mile north, east, south and west from the Village center at Church and Main Street. Mr. Ernest Conway was President of the Village Board and the first Mayor, 1925-1927.
The North Syracuse Free Library was opened to borrowers in November 1928. It has its charter from the University of the State of New York and offers a wide variety of videos and books for reference or leisure reading. The Northern Onondaga Public Library (NOPL), in its new modern building, was opened in July of 1999 at the site of the Old Trolley Barn at 100 Trolley Barn Lane.
Keeping heritage alive
The Village of North Syracuse today has all of the modern conveniences, facilities and services that our citizens require. We have greatly advanced over the years and now have a population of 6,862. We can stand proud that we are a part of this historic village and can keep some of the heritage alive that began here many years ago by a few settlers in “Podunk.”
Today a Mayor and a Board of our trustees who are elected by the people govern the Village. The Board convenes twice a month to discuss old and new issues and business. Many decisions and approvals are made by the board regarding local laws, budgets, purchases, the hiring of new employees, etc. At the present time the Board members are Mayor Gary Butterfield, Deputy Mayor Diane Browning, Trustee Chuck Henry, and Trustee Patricia Gustafson.
The Village also has a Planning Commission and a Zoning Board of Appeals who supervise changes in zoning, new construction or additions, reviewing blue prints and plans, including drainage, sewer, setback requirements and public structures.
Other employees we have that conduct the daily business at the village Hall are a Treasurer, Village Clerk, Codes Enforcement Officer/Fire Marshal, Animal Control Officer, Parks and Recreation Director and Purchasing Agent. We have a Village Court with a Justice who is elected by the people. Court is held weekly in the Community Center.
Our Public Works Department picks up heavy trash and leaves, plows the snow from the roads and sidewalks, keeps the streets in good condition and the department is on 24 hour call for sewer problems.
Our Village police department patrols the roads keeping the Village a secure and protected place for the residents. The Department is New York State Accredited, one of only a handful in the State to attain that level of expertise.
The Village residents enjoy five parks, Heritage, Lonergan, Centerville, Sleeth and Kennedy. For the children, in the spring, an Easter Egg Hunt opens the season at the Community Center and Centerville Park. Take a glance in Heritage Park during the spring, summer or fall and you may see a softball game, a flag football game, people enjoying a picnic, joggers on the path or sports enthusiasts playing tennis or basketball. On a year-round basis you will find participants of all ages playing disc golf at Heritage. During the summer at Lonergan Park you will hear weekly concerts and view people sitting in their lawn chairs listening to the fine music or dancing to the rhythm of the music. Lonergan Park is also home of the North Syracuse Little League baseball games. A large, youth camp program is held at Lonergan and Heritage Parks during the summer. Kennedy Park boasts a swimming pool with bath house, playground, volleyball court and picnic pavilion for everyone to enjoy. Sleeth Park offers scenic nature trails in a wooded area with an observation deck, bridge and benches. In the winter, residents turn to Centerville Park with their children where they have a grand time sliding down the hills.
Our Parks and Recreation Department offers many diversified programs that are available for all ages, such as playing soccer, attending a concert, taking part in our holiday parade and festivities, going on a bus trip, making crafts and playing cards. There is also a community garage sale in the spring and the Village has extensive housing and medical facilities for seniors available within its borders. The historic Community Center serves numerous, local groups as the site for organizational meetings, recreational programs, and private parties.