The Gridley Building was designed by Horatio Nelson White in 1867. This trapezoidal building was originally built for the Onondaga County Savings Bank. It was sold in 1899 to Frances Gridley. The building is made entirely of limestone and mixes a number of different window sizes in its façade. The south and west fronts in Second Empire style were given the most attractive treatment, while one side is flat because it once faced the canal.
The four-sided, 100-foot clock tower was originally lit by gas jets, and the clock served for many years as the city’s official timepiece. The clock has old wooden hands and 12” high Roman numerals on the four gold leafed dials. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was saved from demolition and renovated in the 1970s.
In 1823, the original offices of the Onondaga Gazette newspaper and a post office were on the second floor of the building located here. The Gazette eventually became the Syracuse Standard known today as The Post-Standard.
In 1834 a fire swept through this area which was known as the
Coffin Block. It destroyed twenty
one buildings in the block.
The Coffin Block was located where the Gridley Building currently stands.
The Tier’s Museum occupied the second and third floors of the structure then in place. The stars of the collection were wax figures of General Washington, Benjamin Arnold, and Captain Kidd, among others. Other attractions included Native American artifacts and war weapons of South Sea Islanders. The most popular however, was the very large overstuffed crocodile on display. It met its demise during the fire when it was hurled from a third floor window only to burst from its hide when it hit the pavement. It was then discovered to the dismay of the general public that this cherished relic was only a fabrication of wood and tooled leather as were the ‘stuffed’ anacondas and sea turtles that had also been on display.
In 1971, the Gridley Building housed another museum, the Canal Museum of New York. It was originally hoped that the location would eventually become a full scale operation and was part of the building’s long-range preservation plans. The inaugural exhibit featured toy trains and many photographs of the trains that once traveled through the streets of Syracuse. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, this plan fell through.