Trains in the streets.
Some historical photos and materials about Syracuse.
New York Central Railroad had its station between West Fayette and West Washington Street, on the block west of Franklin Street. Washington Street was then named Railroad Street.
The era of trains running through Downtown streets came to an end in 1936 when the train companies finished construction of elevated tracks. New York Central Railroad's tracks ran on the right of way that was once the Erie Canal towpath. At their widest, there were 15 sets of tracks and five platforms between the passenger station on Erie Boulevard and the freight station on Burnet Avenue. The NYCRR passenger depot eventually became a Greyhound bus terminal after
The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad elevated its downtown tracks at the same time. The DL&W (which frustrated passengers sometimes referred to as "Delay, Linger & Wait") station was smaller and not as architecturally distinguished as its rival's.
Trolleys, called "electric railroads" at the time, dominated the street, although some horse-drawn buggies were visible. As many as 24 separate trolley lines ran through Syracuse and its surrounding area by 1928. The equivalent of today's Common Center was the Electric Railroad Terminal on the north side of Clinton Square. The final trolley in Syracuse ran either in 1939 or 1941, according to various sources.
From 1987 to 1994, two faux "trolleys" ran through downtown day and night. Unlike the trolleys that were part of Syracuse's once extensive public transit system (before car culture took over), these trolleys didn't require any tracks. Conventional pneumatic tires and wheels ran beneath retro wood paneling. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to ride around downtown even though the fare was a mere 10¢. An empty trolley driving around downtown was a common sight, although on rare occasions, one or two passengers could be seen. Even the trolley drivers admitted very few people ever boarded the trolleys. This was another money-losing scheme Syracuse tried. The trolleys cost $175,000 to purchase and tens of thousands of dollars more to fuel and maintain. Finally no longer willing to bear the costs, the city sold them for $25,400 in 1995, a fraction of their original cost.
Syracuse had a long connection with the dairy industry. The Onondaga County Milk Association had its headquarters in the heart of Downtown in the late 19th century. It was described in an 1878 report:
"The headquarters of the Association are at 44 East Fayette street, in a new building expressly adapted to the business of the Association, erected in 1875 at the cost of $17,000. Since beginning in an old hotel in 1872, they have grown to the dimension requirements of these new premises, which include milk depot, cheese and butter factory, office, boarding house, with barns and blacksmith shop in the rear. The upper rooms are rented to nine families and a spare front room on the first floor occupied for a barber shop."
Dairylea Cooperative, originally the Dairymen's League, had its headquarters on James Street. Like many other companies, Dairylea departed the city in the 1990s for an East Syracuse office park on Brittonfield Parkway, where larger quarters and plentiful parking awaited.
The Eastern Milk Producers Cooperative had its headquarters on Kinne Road. Eastern merged with Milk Marketing, Inc. in 1995, which downgraded the Syracuse headquarters to a regional office. Three years later, Milk Marketing consolidated wth three other milk associations to form Dairy Farmers of America. The Syracuse location was subsequently closed.
A white building takes up the small triangular block at 300 West Genesee Street. Unknown to most people today, this was once the headquarters for Byrne Dairy. While an Arthur Murray Dance Studio has occupied part of the first floor for decades, the second floor has remained vacant almost since Branch's Driving School departed in the 1990s, despite sweeping views out of large picture windows.