The First Baptist Church and Mizpah Tower was designed by architect Gordon Wright.  This building provided a unique combination of religious and commercial uses in the English Gothic style, typified by its pointed arch.  The tower is modeled after that of the Canterbury Cathedral.  The First Baptist and Central Baptist churches were organized in 1821 and 1848, respectively, and consolidated in 1910.  In 1912, the congregation moved into this church.  In 1981, the tower was struck by lightning, prompting the removal of its spires.

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Where the Mizpah Building is currently located once stood the Central Baptist Church of Syracuse built in 1872. 

The Central Baptist Church

On a warm summer night, June 23rd of 1874, the ladies of the church were holding their annual Strawberry and Ice Cream Sociable.  The event was to include a performance “The Little Old Folks Concert” in which the youngsters of the church were to dress up as little old ladies and gentlemen and perform songs of the day.  It was estimated that close to 500 were in attendance. 

The Central Baptist Church

At about 9:20 there was a rumbling sound and a trembling of the floor.  The truss that supported the roof pulled loose from its fastenings, crashing to the second floor causing timber, plaster, furniture, and people of all ages to fall through to the first floor. 

Photo from the Central Baptist Church Disaster

Deadly debris then rained down from the roof.

As a result of the catastrophe, a law was enacted requiring the inspection of public buildings to insure public safety. 145 people were injured and 14 people died in this accident, one of Syracuse’s worse tragedies. 

Newspaper article about the Central Baptist Church Disaster