Upstate Modern is a series of courses and public programs at Syracuse University examining the urban history of Upstate New York through transdisciplinary research that draws on archives, buildings, landscapes, and communities.

Preservation and Parking at Hanover Square

By Ran Yue.

The project traces the postwar development of Hanover Square in Syracuse to show how modernizing downtown included pedestrian zones and historic preservation districts alongside parking structures and automotive infrastructure.

Photo collage of Hanover Square in 1895 and 2006, looking west on Water Street, showing the preservation of historic buildings, and major reconstruction on street level along with the changes of transportation method.
Hanover Square in 1895, Hanover Square in 2006. Available from: (Accessed April 21st 2013). Collage reworked by author.

The location of Hanover Square was beneficial to its development. In 1804 the Eire Canal was curved out through the community, started the expansion of Syracuse and successful development as an industrial city. Hanover Square was south of the Eire and Oswego Canals junction and north of the first Washington Street rail road depot Vanderbilt. The adjacency to the packet landing spot of the canal, and convenient transpiration made it soon became an early mercantile center. At the moment the streets were frequently used by carriages until Hanover Square had its traffic problems, and carriages parking was banned in 1890s. Lately the improvement of railroad network made immigrants continued to pour into the city, downtown area was populated, and Hanover Square was not surprisingly a meeting place.

Universalizing of automobile greatly changed the theme of urban development of Syracuse in 20th century. Road system became more important for both vehicle and pedestrian. The development of highway system (I-80 and 1-690) further connected adjacent communities, bring more people to downtown area every day. Such circumstance flourished living pattern of downtown Syracuse, while soon, parking became indispensable problem. In late 20th century, many buildings were demolished only to create small, inefficient parking lots. Knowing it was a inappropriate direction of development, the preservation of historic buildings was claimed into concern in planning of urban renewal.

The renovation of Hanover Square was a start of a procedure in dealing with the contradiction between preservation of historic structure and providing better facilities for automobile. Rearranging the space usage of pedestrian, car traffic, parking, and landscape on ground level was reforming the atmosphere of a meeting point of city center. The reconstruction of Larned Building, is a successful cross programming project in preserving its facade as historic element, while serving the parking of CBD district of downtown Syracuse efficiently. The developing procedure of Hanover Square provided a unique yet appropriate perspective in imagining historic area of American city with the demands of automobile and continuity of historic culture.

In 1974, the Hanover Square became the city’s first Historic Preservation District, with the concern about the continuation of historic culture. Admittedly, Hanover Square is a laboratory of architectural styles. Federal, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Romanesque, Sullivanesque, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Neo-classical and Art Deco are all represented. Seventeen buildings in all, grouped triangularly around this historic open space, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These buildings have maintained their architectural integrity and are a text book collection of popular styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as visual symbols of the city’s history. Nevertheless, historic preservation was the major factor of the maintenance of historic building condition; the demands brought by the popularization of automobile was another factor that initiated changes of programs within the district in last few decades of 20th century.

After the declining of industry in post-war year, and many residents left the urban core and move out of the city, life in downtown Syracuse seemed relied more on automobile transportation. The development of highway I-81 and I-690 built up stronger connections with the communities around the city. The development of street system in downtown area was more focused on the automobile traffic. For instance, Streets including Eire Boulevard, Water Street, South West Street, Harrison Street, and South Townsend Street were planned for ring rout development, several approach and gateways areas were set on the intersection of the streets. Approximately 30,000 people come to Downtown Syracuse each day to work. The parking facilities were initially planned to be placed in the blocks which were close to the ring routes and highways, remaining the inner core of downtown area as office and residential district. Whereas the lack of parking space and long distance walk, increased the demand in parking development. Ultimately, as the 20th century drew to a close, the unplanned community growth triggered the phenomenon that many buildings were demolished to construct parking lots.

Except some on street parking space, the historic preservation district had little parking facility. While the occupancy of parking lots in the CBD district between East Washington Street and East Jefferson Street had more needs of parking space. In 1990s, the office facility Larned Building with run-down interior condition was included in a renovation project. With a careful survey of the demand in downtown area, the program was eventually decided as parking garage. As with many urban areas, there was great need for parking,” according to developer Jim Monahan. Standing on the interface of Hanover Historic District and CBD, the garage would serve both area. In solving the contradiction between preservation of historic structure and the change of the program, the exterior facade was preserved. Because the Larned building shares a common wall with an existing parking structure, it was determined that the old structure could be converted to parking and could utilize its neighbor’s already existing ramps.

The reconstruction replaced the original brick bearing walls and wood joist with steel frame structure. Bracings were added to support automobiles. The existing atrium in the center was remained, while attached with ventilation facility. Entrances to other adjacent buildings were set inside the garage, even a sky bridge was setup to link the parking facility to the block on the west side where SUNY Oswego Metro Center located. This made the transportation process more efficient. The pedestrian connection allowed users to arrive their destination more directly, and made the linked buildings function together.


  1. Hardin, Evamaria. Syracuse landmarks : an AIA guide to downtown and historic neighborhoods. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1993., 1993.
  2. Walton, J. R. (1997). Landscapes of fun: Rewriting downtown syracuse. Syracuse University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 394-394 p. Retrieved from (304389300).
  3. Short, John Rennie, Lisa M. Benton, William Luce, and Judith Walton. “The reconstruction of post-industrial city.” Journal of Architecture Education (1984-). 50. no. 4 (1997): 244-253.
  4. Ward, Sheila. A Feasibility study considering the rehabilitation of the Larned Building in downtown Syracuse, New York from office space to housing /. 1977.
  5. “Syracuse Then and Now – Hanover Square.” Accessed April 21, 2013.
  6. “Syracuse Comprehensive Plan.” Accessed April 21, 2013.

Showing Erie Canal running across downtown Syracuse in 1874
Available from: (Accessed April 23rd 2013).

Showing the condition of transportation on street of Hanover Square in 1884.
Available from book: Hardin, Evamaria. Syracuse landmarks : an AIA guide to downtown and historic neighborhoods. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1993., 1993.

Showing train as a transportation method in downtown Syracuse in early 20th century.
Available from: (Accessed April 23rd 2013).

Showing the original Plan of Larned Building before reconstructed into parking facility.
Available from book: Ward, Sheila. A Feasibility study considering the rehabilitation of the Larned Building in downtown Syracuse, New York from office space to housing. 1977.

Showing the process of reconstruction of Larned Building changing the program into parking facilit, with the purpose of remaining the facade.
Available from: (Accessed April 23rd 2013).

Show the pedestrian bridge across S Salina Street, connecting Vanderbilt/Larned Garage and SUNY Oswego Metro Centre.
Photo by author.

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