By 1876 a transformation was occurring in the city of Syracuse. Along the Erie Canal and its main thoroughfare, Salina Street, small Italianate and vernacular storefronts were giving way to large office buildings in more sophisticated Gothic and Greek Revival designs. Joseph Silsbee's Syracuse Savings Bank, the largest building to be built in the city at the time, was nearing completion and the architect was just awarded a second commission for an equally impressive structure by the White family.
Much like the Syracuse Savings Bank Building, this White Building an excellent example of this style of building. It was said that the building was modeled after buildings in Manchester, England. Though it doesn't seem to ape any particular Manchester building, with it's soaring roof lines, Gothic arches and use of varied materials, it is tempting to imagine the young architect in Manchester viewing the works of fellow Unitarian, Thomas Worthington and other proponents of the "new" style.
The ornament on the structure is varied. Abstract references to classical architecture are seen in support columns. Foliate motifs on the building have a more Medieval appearance and are carved into banding and accent stones. Whimsical creatures bearing resemblance to lions and birds of pray whimsically add to the macabre nature of the style.
The context of the structure has also changed. When constructed, the building had a prominent location, facing Vanderbilt Square, the location of one of Syracuse's main train stations. Trains would travel east down what is now Washington Street and would stop in front of the building.