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Lower Onondaga Park and Strathmore's Art on the Porches

Syracuse Parks Conservancy Series

To get to the lower part of Onondaga Park (15.6 acres) from the upper part, one must walk down a slope through lilacs. Old lilacs that are flowering increasingly earlier as time marches on. Global warming in our parks? Or a natural moving of the seasons? In any case the lilac grove was once slated to be the city's Southwest Junior High, but luckily this was talked down said Paul Pflanz of the Onondaga Park Association.

On the map, Lower Onondaga Park (LOP) is contained within Onondaga Avenue and South Avenue with Onondaga Creek as one of its borders. It was designed in 1906 by George Kessler, a contemporary of Fredrick Law Olmstead, who worked on landscape projects in 23 states as well as China and Mexico.

Originally LOP had a freeform garden until 1938 when it became much more structured. There was Star Lake, a fountain, rustic stone buildings and a bridge. There was even a formal rose garden with organized walkways.

Pflanz said the park's 1938 update was a rejection of 19th century romanticism in favor of the order and geometric clarity of design of the early 20th century much as the Arts and Crafts architecture was a reaction to the excesses of the Victorian design.

Star Lake with its five spraying fountains was a converted lily pond surrounded by willow trees. In the 1970s it was filled in by the city. It had been located in what is now Kirk Park's ball field - in the outfield. Today, Kirk is the recreation center of this park - with a playground, courts and athletic fields, including one little league diamond.

"A large tract of property was purchased in 1909 from William Kirk and shortly thereafter an additional parcel was acquired from Matilda Kinne. This created a linear park system and greenspace corridor linking Upper Onondaga Park, Lower Onondaga Park, Kirk Park, Onondaga Creek Boulevard and Elmwood Park," Paul and Linda Pflanz wrote for a Strathmore Homes Tour.

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