Baldwinsville History Mystery: July 12, 2017
Question: As this photo from the late 1870s indicates, Baldwinsville was a bustling community with many enterprises to supply the citizenry. The Downer and Son store was one of them. Do you know where it was located and what more modern enterprises evolved from it?
Last week’s answer: The house in last week’s photo is located at 41 Syracuse St., the northeast corner of Syracuse and Grove streets. Over the last 100 years the house itself has been enlarged while the Victorian porch has been removed and replaced with a smaller entrance. The house is undergoing remodeling again today; currently there is no porch in place. In its present state the home’s original Greek revival style doorway is evident.
When George Washington Harris took this photo in 1913, the house was the residence and office of Dr. Frank B. Spengler. Dr. Spengler arrived in Baldwinsville in 1907 and purchased the home and practice of Dr. John H. Burch who had been in Baldwinsville since 1885. In 1907 Burch moved to Syracuse where he became a noted pioneer in X-ray medicine.
Spengler, a general practitioner, had office hours from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. He also advertised that he took “calls at all hours, both village and country.” The doctor and his family remained on Syracuse Street until 1917 when he moved his residence and office to Oswego Street. Spengler was a dedicated and beloved community member who served Baldwinsville as both a physician and civic leader for 50 years. He passed away in 1957 at the age of 76 and is interred in Riverview Cemetery.
While the second story of the house at 41 Syracuse St. has been expanded over the last century, the photo still bears clues to the location. Trolley tracks are visible in the unpaved roadway. Syracuse St. was the only high style residential area on the trolley line. The street sign on the utility pole indicates that the property is on a corner. The fire hydrant and utility pole remain in place yet today. A section of the house to the north, 39 Syracuse St., is also visible in the photo. Both homes have distinctive peaks facing the street. The sign above the front steps indicates that it houses a professional office.
Today’s traffic makes it virtually impossible to discern clues such as these when one is in a moving automobile. For those who are on foot, Baldwinsville’s built environment offers a wealth of architectural detail and clues to village life of yesteryear.
Contact Editor Sarah Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by 5 p.m. Friday (please leave the information in the message; we are not generally able to return calls regarding History Mystery responses). If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo, your name and guess will appear in next week’s Messenger, along with another History Mystery feature. History Mystery is a joint project of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse and the Baldwinsville Public Library.