(A chronological look back at highlights)
Syracuse Central High School, the future home of
the Institute of Technology, has played a significant role in the history of
Syracuse. It was the high school in its' early years and remained the largest
high school in the city of Syracuse for a long period of time. Over the years
the name has changed several times as follows; the High School(1854-1871), Syracuse High School (1871-1907), Syracuse High School-Central &
North (1907-1908), Syracuse Central High School (1909-1959) and Syracuse Central Technical High
High school sessions were first started in 1855
and were held successively in a building on Park Street, Prescott School and in
Genesee School, located in the rear of the old Board of Education Building at
409 W. Genesee. From there the high school was moved to rooms on the third floor
of a building on West Fayette Street.
The first "high school" building was erected in
1867 on a lot costing $16,000, opposite the old Board of Education, with a
seating capacity for 600 pupils. It was slated to be the permanent residence of
the high school, Board of Education and Central Library until the turn of the
The second "high school" building, slated to
replace the 1867 building, began in June 1899 with the initial site development
on the area called Billings Park where several small homes and farms, including
a stable and blacksmith shop were purchased through condemnation. The Mundy home
(1832) was purchased for $15,000; and the Hayden property for $13,000. There had
been many arguments among school and city officials over other sites for the
school such as Bellevue Heights and the Leavenworth properties. The architect
chosen to design the school was Archimedes Russell who also designed The Fourth
Onondaga County Courthouse and The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The
school formally opened with a Ceremony of Transfer on January 29, 1903, at a
cost of $428,076.
The building with its' very unique architectural
features, was in the U-shape design intended to accommodate 1500 students. The
interior of the U-shape contained an auditorium complete with stage and was
referred to originally as Assembly Hall and shortly there after on February 1903
was rededicated as Lincoln Hall. It was designed by noted architect Albert
Brisbane. Sometime during the 1906/1907 time frame it was closed for alterations
and with the help of sound expert, W.C.Sabine of Harvard University the acoustic
properties of the hall were improved such that they were considered outstanding
when the Hall reopened in October of 1907. The vaulted ceiling had Neo-Baroque
panels of acoustical plaster. The arch was said to be the "third largest in the
Eastern United States" and was capped by a huge gilded American eagle.
The 1,875 seat facility became Syracuse's cultural
center. It has been reported that the opening lecture was given by Admiral
Richard Byrd and that it was there that the Syracuse Symphony gave its first
performance. Performances there included such artists such as George Gershwin,
Sergei Rachmanioff, Ezio Pinza, Arthur Fiedler and Nelson Eddy. The backstage
was the school's gymnasium. A moveable wall was folded back when basketball
games were played. The court ran stage-left to stage-right and spectators sat a
distance away in the confines of the auditorium
The building did not contain a gymnasium or
cafeteria but it did contain a small lunchroom in the basement and in the
vestibule stood the heroic statue of Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom, complete with a
spear, a gift of a graduate of the school.
During 1907/1908, Syracuse High School housed two student bodies while the new
"North Side High" was being built. Until the new North Side building was ready
for occupancy, its student body was organized at Syracuse High School as an
afternoon session. While this transition was taking place the school became
known as Syracuse High School Central and Syracuse High School North, but there
were also references to it as Northside and Southside. This was probably due to
the fact that the dividing line between the two districts at that time was the
Erie Canal and it was a way of easily distinguishing between two groups. In
April 1909, by board action the names formally became North High School and
Syracuse Central High School and in June of 1909, the complete separation of
Central and North took place when the Recorder became the school paper for
Central High only.
In February 1909 a bronze bust of Lincoln was
dedicated and it was probably around this time that the names Assembly Hall and
Lincoln Hall started to fade out and Lincoln Auditorium was more commonly used.
In May 1909 a memorial bronze tablet containing the 38 names of Syracuse High
School boys in the Civil War was dedicated and was to be erected at the entrance
to Lincoln Auditorium.
In November 1912 a bronze tablet inscribed with
the Gettysburg Address and containing a profile of Lincoln was dedicated. With
this the transition was finally made so that future references would be made as
On May 17, 1916 the dedication of a new 95-foot steel flag pole took place. It
was located on the Adams Street side of the building and to the left of the
boys' entrance on Warren Street. Mayor Stone delivered the address and an
impressive tribute was paid to the flag by sixteen hundred boys and girls and
sixty instructors. The more than 1600 persons recited in unison the pledge of
allegiance as follows: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the country for
which it stands; one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1920 the dedication of a memorial bronze tablet
containing the names of Syracuse Central High School boys who served in WWI was
dedicated and was to be erected at the entrance to Lincoln Auditorium.
In 1928 a $250,000 grant was processed for an addition to Syracuse Central High
School. It included a much needed Gymnasium, Cafeteria and Kitchen, and Science
Labs. The addition and remodeling was completed in 1929 at a total cost of
In 1946 Alumni who became World War II veterans
were honored with a bronze plaque following the tradition started with a similar
plaque honoring Civil War and WW I veterans who had attended the old Syracuse
High School, Central's predecessor.
A modern annex was added on the east side of the school in the late 1950's to
house programs transferred from Smith Technical High School. In 1960 Syracuse
Central High School formally became Syracuse Central Technical High School. The
first class to graduate from Central Tech was in 1960 and the last class to
graduate was in 1975, when the school officially closed its' doors and transfer
was made to Geo. W. Fowler High School.
The landmark rested on the city's surplus property
list six years. Its landlord was the Community Development Agency. Lincoln
Auditorium was virtually sealed and mothballed. The city allowed a few
non-profit groups use of some of the empty spaces for free, including Syracuse
Opera Theater. Rochester builder Albert Spaziano bought the building in 1984.
His plan was to renovate old Central for offices. Because of its landmark
designation, the building's exterior, iron stairways, railings and auditorium
were to be kept as originally designed.
There was a mystery regarding the statue of
Minerva, the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, which stood on a pedestal in the
lobby of the main entrance. It was a favorite meeting place, and students would
slip secret notes under the statue of Minerva for their friends. She seemed to
have simply vanished after the school was closed, and rumors surrounded her
whereabouts. In 1990 Dick Case, Syracuse Herald Journal columnist, wrote several
articles regarding the mystery. Case finally reported that the missing statue
was owned by Paul Christou who kept Minerva in his restaurant, Xristos, at the
New York State Fairgrounds. A t that time, she needed some minor refurbishing
but since then the 1998 Labor Day storm occurred, she became a casualty, and was
severely damaged. She is now in the custody of the Class of 1961 who with the
help of a volunteer local art instructor are hoping to facilitate a complete
In the spring of 2000 the staff of Central
Technical Vocational Center developed a concept proposal for a fifth high school
offering a comprehensive Career and Technical Education Program for the 21st
century. At the present time the school district is continuing program
development and has renovated the old Syracuse Central building for the program.
The "Institute of Technology @ Syracuse Central High School"
has opened, once again providing an outstanding high school program.