The Syracuse Savings Bank building, now Bank of America, was built in 1876 and designed by Syracuse architect Joseph Silsbee.  The building is a masterpiece of the Victorian Gothic style, in contrasting tan Ohio and red New Jersey sandstone.  Windows with pointed arches, sometimes grouped in threes, are important to the overall effect. 

Examples of the Syracuse Savings Bank building detail surrounding the doorway

Examples of the Syracuse Savings Bank building detail surrounding the windows
Italian immigrant stonecutters carved the ornamentation.  At the time, its 170-foot tower made it the tallest building in the city.  A ride to the top in the city’s first passenger elevator cost ten cents.  Inside are murals of old Syracuse, painted by local artist Hall Groat in 1977.  The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Joseph Lyman Silsbee, architect

 

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Joseph Lyman Silsbee, the architect for this impressive Gothic masterpiece, not only designed the building, he moved his office to its tower when it was finished, the tallest structure in Syracuse in the 1870s.  Silsbee had studied architecture in Boston.  He moved to Syracuse in 1873 and became an instructor in the newly formed architecture program at Syracuse University.  He married the daughter of prominent former congressman - Charles Sedgwick in 1875 – the same year his design for the bank Building was being constructed.  Silsbee left his mark on several Syracuse commercial buildings but later expanded his practice to Buffalo and eventually Chicago by 1886.  In Buffalo and Chicago, he concentrated on residential homes, generally for wealthy clients.  His designs evolved as styles changed during the late 19th century but the homes always evidenced a sophistication that would influence some of the young draftsman who worked in his Chicago office, including a 20-year old Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Frank Lloyd Wright
While Wright’s most famous work was not a copy of Silsbee’s, Wright credited Silsbee as an architect with superior talent.  It was Wright’s first experience working in architectural office where he witnessed the impact of Silsbee’s expert craftsmanship.

The Syracuse Savings Bank today