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The ‘mystery’ behind the White House

Historic building with rich history now serves as office space for local professionals

The White House was built in 1904 as a summer home for Ernest White and now houses office space for dozens of small businesses.

The White House was built in 1904 as a summer home for Ernest White and now houses office space for dozens of small businesses. PhotosByFine

— 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.

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