City of Syracuse

Submitted by Robert T. Bond

Source:  Dwight H. Bruce (ed.), Onondaga's Centennial.  Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. I, pp. 557-559.

Syracuse University - The Syracuse University had its inception in the Centennial of Methodism in 1866. The Methodist Episcopal church had resolved to raise in that year $2,000,000 and to make its education institutions the chief object of its benefactions. There were at that time under the care of the Methodist denomination several seminaries in the State of New York, but only one college. This was Genesee College located at Lima, a small village distant from a railroad station. It had been in operation since 1851, doing excellent work, but because of the disadvantage of its location had not prospered as much as had been anticipated. When efforts were to be made for centennial education collections in New York, the question of a new university site at once became prominent. After much discussion it was resolved to seek a central location to which the Genesee College might be removed. All the trustees of the latter institution save one favored the removal. Of course the citizens of Lima violently opposed such action, and secured an injunction against the trustees, prohibiting it. The work, however, of founding the new university did not halt. In 1867 the city of Syracuse voted an appropriation of $100,000 to the university, conditioned upon the raising of $400,000 additional for endowment. On the 22d of February, 1870, a Methodist Episcopal convention for the State of New York was held in Syracuse, at which it was determined to establish the university in that city and recommended immediate action to raise at least $500,000 for its endowment. Subscriptions were asked for and $181,000 were subscribed there. This, with previous valid subscriptions and the pledge of the city, made the amount of the fund for the new institution $385,000. A provisional board of trustees was elected and steps were taken to secure a charter. In January, 1871, the valid pledges to the enterprise reached $425,000, and on the 24th of April following the city issued bonds to the university amounting to $100,000. In May Eliphalet Remington gave to the university an interest in a block in Syracuse worth $80,000. During the same month a site of fifty acres in the southeast part of the city was presented by George F. Comstock, and plans for building the Hall of Languages were adopted. On September 1, 1871, the College of Liberal Arts opened its first session in the Myers block with forty-one students and five professors. It continued to occupy that building until the Hall of Languages was completed and dedicated in May, 1873. In December, 1871, the Medical College was established and began its work in the autumn of 1872. The College of Fine Arts was established in June, 1873, and opened on September 18, following. Thus was Syracuse University founded.

In the autumn of 1886 E. F. Holden, of Syracuse, determined to erect a working observatory as a memorial to his son, Charles Demarest Holden, who graduated in the class of 1877, and died in Syracuse in February, 1883. This observatory is built of rock-faced gray limestone and is about 40 by 40 feet in extreme dimensions. It is equipped with an eight-inch Alvan Clark telescope, four-inch reversible transit, micrometer, chronograph, chronometer, astronomical clock and other needed apparatus.

In August, 1887, Mrs. John Reid, of New York city, purchased the great library of Leopold  Von Ranke, of Berlin, Germany, and offered it to Syracuse University on condition that a suitable building be erected to contain it. Accordingly in the following September a library 80 by 90 feet, with a capacity of 130,000 volumes, was begun, which was finished in June, 1889.

One of the most magnificent gifts ever received by the university is the Memorial College for Women, erected by the late John Crouse, of Syracuse, and finished by his son, D. Edgar Crouse. This structure is of Long-Meadow red sandstone, 162 by 190 feet extreme measurements, and is one of the most imposing of buildings. It contains a magnificent music hall, a large organ, and has been amply and elegantly furnished by its donors.

The university has at present four colleges. The College of Liberal Arts, the College of Fine Arts, the College of Medicine, and the College of Law, the latter having begun work in September, 1895. A new medical college is in course of erection (1895) at a cost of about $100,000.

Among the notable gifts to the university have been the following: Philo Remington, $100,000; John D. Slayback, $20,000; A Friend, for library, $100,000; Milton S. Price, $10,000; Mrs. Lydia Morehouse, $30,000; Eliphalet Remington, $80,000; Bishop Jesse T. Peck, $50,000; J. Dorman Steele, $50,000; George F. Comstock, $50,000; Rev. H. R. Robinson, $15,000; Rev. William Griffin, D. D., $40,000; Hon. David Decker, $10,000; Mrs. W. P. Abbott, $10,000; Mrs. Harriet T. Leavenworth, Wolf Collection of Engravings; E. F. Holden, the Conservatory; John Crouse and D. Edgar Crouse, John Crouse Memorial College; Mrs. J. M. Reid, Von Ranke Library; Mrs. J. Dorman Steele, support of Professorship of Theistic Science, ($2,500 per year) and the equipment of the Department of Physics, $10,000; and many other gifts of various amounts.

The university opens all of its courses of study on equal terms to students of both sexes.

The chancellors of the university have been as follows: Rev. Daniel Steele, D. D. (president of the College of Liberal Arts), 1871-72; Alexander Winchell, LL. D., 1872-74; E. O. Haven, D. D., LL. D., 1874-80; Charles N. Sims, D. D., LL. D., 1881-93; Rev. James S. Day, D. D. LL. D., present chancellor. In point of registration the university now ranks fifth among the universities and colleges of the country, and its faculty is proportionately large.

Submitted 25 November 1998