The Bank of Syracuse, built in 1896, was the earliest steel-frame structure in the city.  Albert Brockway designed the marble Neo-Classical façade to be imposing in spite of its small size.  It is only 26 feet wide and made of white marble.  Depicted in the pediments above the entrance are two sides of a coin from the ancient city of Syracusa, Sicily, for which Syracuse is named.  The figures in the coin were used on the bank’s checks and drafts.

A photo of the Bank of Syracuse Building, the building on the left with the light façade 

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With completion of the Oswego Canal in 1828, the Erie Canal was also linked at Syracuse with Lake Ontario.  Each waterway passed directly through the salt works.  Together, they ignited an explosion in local salt production.  That was appropriate since a duty was collected on Onondaga salt by the state which helped generate revenue used toward building the canal.  Canals significantly dropped shipping costs.  Bulky cargoes, like salt, that previously moved laboriously by wagon at a cost of $100/ton could now be shipped at $5/ton.

The growth of the salt industry brought wealth into Syracuse, seeding the establishment of banks whose capital financed other local industries.  By 1835 Onondaga County ranked third in population out of New York State’s 55 counties, with 60,908 inhabitants.  The stage was set for Syracuse to become one of New York’s largest cities.

Construction of the Bank of Syracuse Building

The Bank of Syracuse was one of many banks in this area.  In its early days, this Beaux-Arts gem in downtown Syracuse, was used as a bank by several companies.  The structure was designed to be taller, but it has always been overshadowed by its next-door neighbor, Onondaga County Savings Bank building (now M&T).

Bank of Syracuse became the National Bank of Syracuse in 1900. It was later home to City Bank and Liberty National Bank.  Investment securities firms did business here, most recently Flagship Securities, which was connected to the investigation of fraud by the city’s past mayor, Lee Alexander.  It also has been a Moose lodge and a restaurant, and it now houses a large loft apartment on the third floor.

Lee Alexander