Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home for William Judson Smith

Much of Joseph Silsbee's work in the city of Syracuse is well documented.  Still, there are many works that have recently discovered but have not been fully researched.  I am also convinced there are even more structures that he designed for the city that are awaiting re-discovery. 

Several years ago, I came across an article describing a home that Silsbee was designing for William Judson Smith.  Smith was from an important local agricultural family that had large land holdings along West Genesee Street in Syracuse and in the Lakeland area, where the current New York State Fairgrounds are located.  William, along with his brother, were partners in Syracuse's largest nursery, Smiths & Powell.  In 1881, Silsbee was commissioned by Smith to design a cottage for he and his wife on a property along West Genessee. 

At the time William was engaged to Laura Geddes.  They were married in the spring of 1882 and in August of that year, after a honeymoon in Europe, they moved into the home.  Laura was also from an important Syracuse agricultural family.  Her great-grandfather, James Geddes was one of the earliest civil engineers in the state and was responsible for surveying parts of the City of Syracuse as well as the Erie Canal.  The Town of Geddes is named after him.  George Geddes, her great-uncle was a noted horticulturist and farmer.  The famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, mentored under George in his Fairmount farm, just outside of Syracuse. 
The home that was constructed was very modest and cost between four and five thousand dollars.  Though it has been significantly altered, it is a remarkable survivor in a city that has lost almost all of it's Silsbee-designed homes.  Beneath the aluminum siding is a shingle and clapboard clad Queen Anne home.
The Smith family were Unitarians and also had connections with the Syracuse Savings Bank.  Due to these connections, it is likely that William knew Joseph Silsbee personally before hiring him for the design of the home. 
The Smiths lived in the home for approximately fifteen years.  In 1896, William hired local architects Merrick & Randall to design a more substantial mansion, pictured below, for his family.  It is located on West Genesee Street, just a couple blocks distance from their earlier residence.  It is currently used as a Funeral Parlor. 

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