In May of 1880, Joseph Silsbee appeared at a hearing before the Utica School Board regarding the plans he submitted as part of an architectural competition for a new public school for the City of Utica. A year earlier, he had "lost" a similar competition for the Prescott School in the City of Syracuse. Motivated by the outcome of that competition, he seemed concerned that unfair bias would be given towards buildings that were less than the stipulated budget amount of $10,000, as he felt was the case of the Syracuse competition. He and other architects had submitted plans for buildings in that competition for the stipulated amount only to be beaten out of the project not by a better designed building but one that was cheaper.
Silsbee's concerns from Syracuse were unwarranted in Utica. What Silsbee didn't know was that his proposal was the only one submitted. It seems that Utica architects were not interested in the project and no other architects of the region seemed to take interest either. Fresh off the Syracuse competition, he submitted a simple, yet finely detailed building design that seemed to be a big departure from the more rectilinear Italianate structures that dominated school construction in Central New York. Given how soon it was between the two competitions, it would be interesting to know what Silsbee's proposal for the Prescott school was. Unfortunately, no drawings of the entries exist.