THE HISTORY OF SYRACUSE CENTRAL

(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 School (1960-1975).

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 century.

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 Lincoln Auditorium.
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 $750,000.

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 restoration.

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.