The Phoenix Buildings are the oldest in downtown Syracuse and were originally canal loft “double-enders.”  This design allowed access for business from the street on the south, and from the Erie Canal on the north.  Windows of both front and rear upper floors have wooden lintels done in a simple Federal motif.  The large upper floor windows indicate that they were originally doorway openings for hauling goods up by block and tackle from the canal boats docked below.  These buildings were constructed after fire destroyed 21 buildings in Hanover Square.  It is thought they were named after the mythical bird, the Phoenix, which rose from the ashes.

A map showing the Phoenix Buildings Read More

The Phoenix Buildings are located in the area once called the Coffin Block.  This area of the city was the first major business center due to its strategic location between the Erie Canal and the intersection of major turnpikes and city streets. 

The Coffin Block

The original main three wooden buildings, two stories high, got their name from the peculiar shape of the plot of ground they stood on and their wooden construction. 

This section now contains primarily brick buildings constructed after the great fire of 1834.  The fact that these buildings have essentially remained intact for over 180 years is extremely remarkable.

The fire of 1834 is thought to be one of the first major fires in Syracuse.  The blaze roared out of control for nearly six hours subsequently destroying at least 21 wooden buildings in this area including the Onondaga Standard office.  Citizen volunteers formed water bucket brigades assisting two volunteer engine companies. 

In 1830 every building was required to have at least one leather fire bucket with their name inscribed on it.