Strathmore by the Park
The Strathmore by the Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Strathmore "By the Park," roughly a 46-acre residential subdivision designed in 1917, is located in the southwest quadrant of the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, in the Central New York State region. The boundaries of the proposed Strathmore "By the Park" district coincide with those originally laid out by the developers, Judson W. Clark and Raymond E. Porter of Clark & Porter, Inc. The Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision's northern boundary is the rear property lines of the residential lots on the north side of Twin Hills Drive and the corner residential lot on the north side of West Colvin Street. The eastern boundary is the corner residential lot on the north side of West Colvin Street and the rear property lines of the residential lots on the east side of Wellesley Road. The southern boundary is Glenwood Avenue. The western boundary is South Geddes Street. The subdivision was designed to follow the natural contours of the land and to capitalize on the views provided by the elevation.
Within the Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision there are a total of 203 properties, of which 198 are contributing. The road system and its associated features, laid out in 1917, have been counted as a contributing structure. Both the residential buildings of Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision and the other original character-defining features of the subdivision retain a high level of integrity.
The City of Syracuse straddles an east-west line that separates two physiographic regions: the Appalachian Foothills to the south and the Ontario Lake Plain to the north. The Strathmore "By the Park" subdivision is located in the Appalachian Foothills. The low point of the neighborhood is the southeastern corner along Glenwood Avenue and the high point is the northwestern corner along South Geddes Street. The terrain gradually rises in elevation from Glenwood Avenue to Strathmore Drive, steeply from there to the northwestern end of Stinard Avenue, and crests mid-block between Stinard Avenue and Twin Hills Drive.
On this hilly site, no two blocks are entirely at the same elevation and most of the streets curve and/or climb and descend. There is a visible change from the urban grid street pattern to the north to the curvilinear street pattern of the subdivision: the increased size of individual lots and larger size and architectural design of the houses enhance this difference. By working with the natural landforms presented by the topography, sinuous roads were developed which resulted in irregularly shaped lots and blocks. The undulating terrain — with curving, climbing and descending streets, relative density of the residential lots, and rich vegetation combining street trees and private plantings and gardens — make the Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision very complex.
In order to maintain this complexity, Clark & Porter, Inc. established "protective provisions" that insured the area would contain only single-family homes, with defined lot frontages, designated setbacks, prohibitions against out-buildings and commercial uses, and minimum construction costs for houses. These characteristics all are evident today. Furthermore, the provisions required that every purchaser of a lot furnish Clark & Porter, Inc. with a set of plans and specifications to assure that the proposed house meet these restrictions.
There are two distinctive entrances to Strathmore "By the Park." Both entrances fall on Strathmore Drive, the first at the intersection with Roberts Avenue and the other at the intersection with South Geddes Street and Glenwood Avenue. Strathmore Drive is a boulevard from the Roberts Avenue entrance to the intersection at Robineau Road. It contains a central median, known as Strathmore Park, which is planted with deciduous trees and lawn. Strathmore is the most impressive street in the subdivision, gradually curving and descending to the southwest and bordered on the north by the largest homes in the subdivision. While it may not be the street with the steepest grade, it separates the dramatic slopes to the northwest from more gentle slopes to the southeast. At its first intersection, south of Onondaga Park Drive and Roberts Avenue, it meets with West Colvin Street on the east and Wellesley Road to the south. It continues through the subdivision by taking a ninety-degree turn to the west, where it crosses Robineau Road and meets with Twin Hills Drive to the west. From here, Strathmore Drive curves to the southwest crossing Stinard Avenue and continues south to its junction with South Geddes Street and Glenwood Avenue, where the second entrance is located. This entry area has an island with a contemporary sign located on it.
Of the other subdivision streets, Stinard Avenue and Twin Hills Drive extend from the northern city neighborhoods into Strathmore "By the Park" Stinard Avenue, the most dramatic street in regards to the topographic change in elevation, provides wonderful views for the residents that live on this avenue. At its first intersection north of Glenwood Avenue, Stinard Avenue meets with Strathmore Drive and gradually increases in elevation until it meets with Arden Drive. North of the intersection at Arden Drive, it undergoes a significant change in elevation until it crests at mid-block between Arden and Twin Hills Drive. Twin Hills Drive, which gradually descends in elevation from north to south, is similar to most streets in the subdivision with its curvilinear alignment, but differs in property frontage and lot sizes along the street. While most of the dwellings in Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision have a 30-35 foot set-back from the front street line, dwellings located on Twin Hills Drive are set back 40 feet. Furthermore, the lot sizes and houses are for the most part larger than the remaining lots and residences in the subdivision.
Alanson Road, relatively straight in alignment, climbs steeply northeast to southwest and possesses a great deal of interest due to the abundant vegetation, street trees, and sharp elevation change. Because of the extreme slope found on the west side of the road, the land is unsuitable for building. Because of this, the road is surrounded by thick vegetation, which, with the help of street trees on the opposite side, provides a sense of enclosure. Due to the abrupt change in elevation, there is difficulty distinguishing what lies beyond the crest of the street providing a sense of mystery.
Arden Drive and Charmouth Avenue both possess curvilinear alignment. Arden Drive gradually decreases in elevation, curving downward from west to east. The subtle change in elevation enhances the character of the subdivision. Charmouth Drive, although relatively flat in comparison to the other streets within Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision provides a great deal of interest as it curves northeast, providing a sense of enclosure through the close proximity of the houses to the road and the trees that line the entire street.
Robineau and Wellesley Roads are both very straight in alignment. With the minimal topographic change found on the eastern edge of the subdivision, Clark & Porter, Inc., simply carried the traditional grid layout established to the north and east and overlaid it in this section. Although lacking the curvilinear alignment found on the previously mentioned streets, Robineau and Wellesley Roads still provide interest due to the uniqueness and variety of architecture found along these two streets.
Historically, Glenwood Avenue and South Geddes Street are the two oldest streets within this residential subdivision. They are extensions of the original grid layout in Syracuse and were primarily used by the farmsteads that these streets bordered. South Geddes Street, forming the western boundary, descends abruptly from the north to the south. Glenwood Avenue, forming the boundary at the southern edge, gradually descends west to east.
The restrictions placed on the development of the Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision by "protective provisions," as well as the example of distinctively designed houses in the Colonial Revival, Tudor, Prairie, Spanish Eclectic, Mission and Craftsman styles, helped create a distinguished early 20th century neighborhood. Prominent local architects Ward Wellington Ward and Merton Elwood Granger each designed houses in Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision. Seventy-six percent of the properties in the subdivision were developed by 1926, and ninety-three percent were developed by 1930. Only twelve residences were built in the post-World War II period. There is a consistency of high quality architectural design that further emphasizes the subdivision as a distinct and separate neighborhood.
It is the combination of circulation, vegetation, topography, and residential architecture that make Strathmore "By the Park" a cohesive cultural landscape that exemplifies early-twentieth century American subdivision design.
Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision is a distinctive example of an early-twentieth century residential subdivision. As presented in the Multiple Property cover document "Historic Designed Landscapes of Syracuse, New York," well-planned subdivisions were highly unified, with uniform streetscape treatment and strict control over the size, location and design of homes. A hierarchical street system integrated the subdivision with the surrounding community while at the same time maintaining exclusive privacy for residents. The ideal residential subdivision provided complete infrastructure services, large open spaces, facilities for quiet outdoor recreation, a cohesive architectural appearance, and relief from the hustle and bustle of the city. Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision remains an outstanding and highly intact representation of early-twentieth century landscape architectural design.
In 1913, Raymond E. Porter and Judson W. Clark founded the real estate firm of Clark & Porter, Inc. With Porter's background as an art connoisseur and Clark's expertise in real estate, they became pioneers in suburban real estate development in the Syracuse area. In the fall of 1916, Clark & Porter, Inc. purchased the forty-six acre Stolp farm from Elmer J. Clark, George Stolp's son-in-law, with full intentions of developing a subdivision that worked with the natural contours of the land. The plan for Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision was completed by 1917, but, with America's entry into World War I, plans were postponed until 1919 when development and promotion of Strathmore "By the Park" began.
The subdivision was conceived and developed by Clark & Porter, Inc. as an exclusive residential area marketed to the middle- and upper-income individuals and families. Clark & Porter, Inc. designed it to appeal to both established and young professionals seeking the best amenities and luxuries in the "most ideal and healthiest" location in Syracuse. Knowing the problems associated with city life, they developed a subdivision that bordered on one of the most beautiful parks in the city, Onondaga Park, which offered recreational services. The promotional brochure, titled The Formal Opening of Strathmore "By the Park," promised... no smoke, no dirt, no fogs, no two-family or apartment houses, no business places of any kind, nothing but homes."
Public infrastructure was completed; municipal water, sewer, electrical and telephone service were extended into the area. The hierarchical and curvilinear street system set the subdivision apart from the surrounding neighborhoods, yet still provided smooth connections to these established areas. (Each street in the Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision was carefully chosen by Raymond Porter using an old atlas and selecting names of British towns and villages. Strathmore Drive was constructed with two distinctive entrances, and a central median that extended from the northern entry for two blocks. These features made it appear grander than the established streets to the east and north, and with its curving alignment made it seem more private. On this hilly site, no two blocks in the subdivision were laid out entirely at the same elevation and only Charmouth Drive and the lower properties on the southern end of Robineau Road and Wellesley Road were essentially flat. By working with natural curves presented by the topography, Clark & Porter, Inc. developed sinuous roads, which resulted in the majority of the blocks and lots being irregularly shaped.
The developers did not, however, rely solely on the original layout and these installed features to define this landscape; they put into place "protective provisions" to control potential future trends for fifty years. These provisions, or deed restrictions, included limiting construction to single-family homes — and only one per lot, with established minimum lot frontages and designated set-backs. They also prohibited barns, livery stables and public garages. Clark & Porter also reserved the right to review plans and specifications for proposed dwellings to ensure that they complied with the restrictions.
With the minimum construction cost for any house established in the protective provisions (and it varied, depending on the street, from $4,000 to $7,000), the tone was set for the quality of architectural development in the subdivision. A number of homes were designed by prominent local architects; Ward Wellington Ward and Merton Granger designed three of the earliest residences in Strathmore "By the Park," 101 Wellesley Road, 105 Strathmore Drive and 106 Strathmore Drive. 105 Strathmore Drive, a Ward design, became the residence of developer Judson W. Clark. The majority of all the subdivision houses were built by 1926 and executed in the early-twentieth-century revival styles, and by the end of 1930, ninety percent of all the current houses were built. The subdivision generated so much excitement that the rapid sales of the large number of lots in the territory were regarded as a record in the community.
Strathmore "By the Park" is an excellent example of early twentieth century residential subdivision design in that it had — and is still comprised of — a spatial organization associated with the romantic traditions of planned residential neighborhoods initiated in the mid-nineteenth century and popularized into the 1930s. Its meandering streets and public sidewalks provide ample access while offering interest and intrigue. Its vegetation accentuates the park-like character of the lots, provides enclosure and privacy, and enframes distant views as well as neighboring houses. Its buildings, in addition, serve as attractive complements to the sylvan nature of the underlying topography, abundant vegetation and numerous visual and physical sequences. Because of the early and undeniable success that the developers realized, residents that live near or border the original Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision often describe their household as being "in" Strathmore. It is this commonly held view that a much larger portion of the city fabric "is" Strathmore that speaks to the physical, social and cultural impacts that Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision has had on the collective community consciousness.
Onondaga Supreme & County Court Clerks Office. Book FF Miscellaneous Records. September 1, 1917. Page 590.
Landscape and Prospect. The Historic Designed Landscapes of Syracuse, New York. National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. National Park Service. 1994.
Lewis, Grace. At the Post. The Post Standard. 5 April 1952.
The Formal Opening of Strathmore "By the Park." Promotional Brochure. 1917.
Berkeley Park Subdivision Historic District. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. National Park Service. 2001.
Bellevue Heights Zone Attracts Home Builder. The Post Standard. Syracuse, NY. 19 October 1919.
J.W. Clark, Veteran Realty Dealer, Dies Suddenly at Party. The Post Standard. Syracuse, NY. 9 May 1919.
R.E. Porter, Machine Firm Founder, Dies. The Post Standard. Syracuse, NY. 18 March 1954.
† Opalka, Anthony, N. Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Strathmore "By the Park" Subdivision, nomination document, 2006, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.