Manufacturer: Syracuse China
User: Onondaga Hotel
Date of plate: February 1910
Notes: Information about The Onondaga is based on a March 23, 1969, story by Kenneth F. Sparrow and a June 28, 1970, story by Joseph A. Porcello, both published in the Syracuse Herald Journal.
The 11-story Onondaga Hotel comprised two buildings in Syracuse, N.Y., the original building that faced Jefferson Street, which was built in 1910, and the annex that faced Warren Street, which was built in 1915.
The Onondaga's first registered guest, on Aug. 20, 1910, was Vaudeville star Lew Dockstader.
Among the hotel's amenities were the Louis Room that was next to the ballroom, the Old English Inn that had murals with scenes of medieval chivalry, and a private ladies dining room. The overriding theme at the Onondaga was Hiawatha in his canoe, and wallpaper in the hotel coordinated with that theme, as did other Syracuse China patterns.
The annex also featured The Roof Garden that was intended to be a swank supper club, but because it never really caught on it eventually became a luncheon club and was rented out for private parties.
As Sparrow noted in his story, " It was one of the leading hotels in the state in the early decades of the century and the center of Syracuse's social life. People of world renown including Teddy Roosevelt, Al Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Herbert Hoover, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post, Irvin S. Cobb, and many others were number among its guests in the Onondaga's hey-day."
Like so many downtown American hotels, the Onondaga went through a series of owners and near bankruptcies as suburban motels became popular in mid-century, and it was first slated for demolition in 1961. In spite of attempts to come up with a new business plan – including serving as a residential hotel – it was eventually felled by plans to turn its footprint into a parking garage and office building.
The Onondaga was torn down in stages, with the official closing date set at April 1, 1969, for what remained of the hotel's permanent residents and ground-floor commercial tenants, and as of mid-1970, demolition work was nearing completion. Work apparently had begun in earnest in March 1970.
In a sentimental story that focused solely on its destruction, Porcello described the methodical way by which the Onondaga was taken apart. " Floor by floor," he wrote, "the old building with its memories is being lowered to the street level for carting off to the rubbish pile or possibly usable scrap heap."
"Elevator shafts and other vertical passages are being used as huge funnels to carry down the bricks, concrete and steel that once was used to erect the proud old building. " Konski engineers, which planned the demolition, and Taroson Construction Co., which is doing the work, have stressed safety of the workmen and the public passing below as the prime consideration in the demolition.
"The workers are all Mohawk Indians, surefooted and without fear in working at the heights over the streets. They walk swiftly along the I-beam edges, as unconcernedly as if they were still treading their native New York forest paths."
For related info:
Onondaga Hotel by Syracuse China
A hand-filled Art Nouveau tan border design shows gray stylized fish forming the waves on which sailing ships float. This design does not conform to the other known Onondaga china, which shows Hiawatha and his canoe, or to the description of hotel furnishings with the Hiawatha wallpaper.
Photos and ID contributed by Susan Phillips