The Crown Hotel bears the name Hotel McAuliffe. However, this building is known as the Crown Hotel. Built in 1876, it was one of approximately 20 hotels in the area that accommodated the booming railroad industry. This hotel was located directly across the street from the New York Central Railroad station, which was torn down in the 1950s. The Crown Hotel was rehabilitated in 1990 for a restaurant and office space.
Today’s Armory Square district was the site of the city’s two major railroad stations for most of the 19th century. As a result, several hotels eventually were located here, including this building. One of Syracuse's greatest 19th century calamities occurred near here on October 16, 1890. The Leland Hotel fire.
The Leland Hotel, previously located at this site
A photo of the Leland Hotel fire
Flames broke out just after midnight in the 6-story structure and spread rapidly. Portions of the building were collapsing within 45 minutes. Dozens of guests and employees were trapped. Many had to escape by jumping from upper story windows or using emergency ropes to lower themselves. Seven individuals perished, but it would have been many more if not for 21-year old Henry Rucker, the elevator operator.
Rucker lived on Syracuse’s East Side and was of African-American descent. When the inferno blocked the stairways, Rucker kept operating his elevator despite surrounding flames and choking smoke, bringing terrified patrons, trapped on the upper floors, to safety. But then, despite the growing flames, he would return to the upper floors for more.
The remains after the Leland Hotel Fire
The Syracuse Fire Department’s horse drawn ladder unit
Finally, the elevator itself ignited and with blistered hands, Rucker was forced to surrender it by Syracuse firefighters. The brave and dedicated young man was credited with saving at least 20 people that night.
A fireman’s helmet from the time period
A headline about the Leland Hotel Fire