May 21, 2014 Allie Wenner Uncategorized
You may have noticed the big white house nestled between the trees right in the middle of Lyndon Golf Course on Route 5 and wondered, “What is that building, anyway?”
It’s called the White House, named after Ernest Ingersoll White, who built it as a summer home and farm in 1904. White believed that there would eventually be a lot of development on Syracuse’s east side, and wanted to create a “green belt” amongst all of the buildings and asphalt.
“Mr. White wanted a place that would be park-like, but accessible to the public,” said Jody Reynolds, the president of the White House Offices. “He wanted to make sure that no matter how much growth came out this way, that there would be some areas that weren’t developed.”
White, one of the east side’s earliest developers, owned land on Route 92 as well, and was involved in raising funds for Syracuse University’s Law School at the time. Meanwhile, the White House was run as a farm and equestrian facility until 1942 and a trolley service ran from the city out to the building and beyond, according to “A History of the White House,” which was published in the building’s newsletter in 2011.
Following White’s death, the White House and the Lyndon Golf Course were left in a perpetual trust to Syracuse University. White’s will stated that if for any reason golf fell out of favor, he would allow another use for that property as long as it was in keeping with open space and publicly accessible outdoor activities.
For around 30 years, the White House became a home for several Syracuse University Law School deans and faculty members. Eventually, the expenses of heating and maintaining the building became too much, and the building was vacated until 1978, when Jody’s late husband, Peter Reynolds decided to start leasing it from Syracuse University.
“He had just sold his business and lived in Cazenovia, and he said he wanted to have an office on the east side of town,” she said. “So, one day he was driving by the building and said, ‘I’m going to make that into an office building with an open office concept.’”
Jody, who had just left a large public relations agency in Massachusetts to start her own PR business, said Peter encouraged her to move her business out of her home and into the White House.
“As soon as I took an office upstairs, there was an instant credibility of having a real office, with people answering the phones for you,” she said. “For a small business person, it’s perfect – it’s like you have staff members. And that’s a big thing for small business owners – when clients come in, someone offers them refreshments and there’s a nice conference room if they need it. It really gives the business credibility.”
The White House today
Not much has changed in the day-to-day operations of the White House since Reynolds began leasing it in the late 1970s. There’s a new wing, built in the 1990s, and a salon out back in addition to the 31 offices, but the building has retained its old-time charm. From psychiatrists to lawyers to sales representatives, many different areas of business are represented within its walls.
And many of the tenants have been there for decades. Brad Mann, a certified public accountant, has been working out of the White House since 1980.
“It’s just the perfect spot for me,” Mann said. “I left a big accounting firm in 1980 and have been here ever since. It’s very friendly and comfortable – most of the office doors are always open here. A lot of people here are very good friends.”
Reynolds said that one of the aspects that appeals to her tenants over the years, especially those who are self-employed, is the credibility of having a receptionist and a private office in a convenient location, without feeling isolated. The building has a shared conference room, kitchen and coffee area, so many of the tenants run into each other during the day. The building even has a holiday party every year.
“People network here,” said Ann Wolfson, of Wolfson Financial Services, whose business is based out of the White House. “I sometimes refer my clients to the other people who work within the building and hope they’ll refer back to me. Everyone is very friendly; my door is almost always open.”
Currently, the White House has a couple of offices available for rent, which, according to Reynolds, is somewhat of a rare occurrence. “Usually we have a wait list,” she said. “We have more offices available now since we had right after the recession in 2008.”
The White House will be holding an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 5 for anyone who is interested in the building or visiting with the people who work there. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 446-7080 or stop in and visit.
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