syracuse hotel construction 1923  1923 Hotel Construction historic hotel syracuse sign

Originally known as the Hotel Syracuse, this property was considered to be the largest and most prestigious hotel in Syracuse, NY for nearly 90 years. It was built from 1922-1924 by architect George B. Post and Sons and the doors officially opened to the public in August 1924.

historic photo of outside of hotel  Marriott Syracuse Downtown Hotel Historic photo of view from West Onondaga Street

It was a magnificent structure consisting of three towers connected to a base. It housed over 600 guest rooms that featured only one or two double beds and a small bathroom. The hotel also included retail stores at street level, an emergency hospital and tennis, squash and handball courts on the roof. It was truly a unique structure during its time.

The Hotel Syracuse

main dining room looking southwest at marriott syracuse downtown hotel  historic photo of marriott syracuse downtown meeting space

In addition to the guest rooms, the Hotel Syracuse had an elegant meeting room called the Persian Terrace and the beautiful Grand Ballroom, where many elegant events occurred. In the early 1980’s, the largest space, the Imperial Ballroom, was added to the hotel.

From the time it opened, The Hotel Syracuse was associated with grand wedding receptions, graduations, proms and other milestone events by so many Central New Yorkers. With its close proximity to the Oncenter Convention Center, it also served as a pre-eminent location for political and community events in Syracuse. The hotel was said to be such an integral part of the city’s economy that after hotel operations ended the catering business continued for an additional five years.

Hot Spot for Celebrities, Politicians & Public Figures

In its hey day, the Hotel Syracuse saw its share of visits from famous people. It was a hot spot for celebrities, politicians and important public figures. Some of the high profile guests that spent time at this downtown Syracuse hotel, included:

  • President John F. Kennedy
  • President Eisenhower
  • Elvis Presley
  • Bob Hope
  • Charles Lindbergh
  • John Lennon

Historic Works of Art

lobby entrance thumbnail  hotel syracuse lobby

Perhaps one of the most fascinating pieces of history at this Syracuse hotel is the 40-foot by 6-foot mural, that is proudly restored and located behind the front desk today, depicting 20 key events during the first 100 years of Syracuse’s history, including the discovery of salt springs near the shore of Onondaga Lake, the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy and the rescue of a slave named William “Jerry” Henry from the Syracuse Jail in 1851, just before the Civil War. This mural was painted for the hotel by Carl Roters, a professor at Syracuse University’s College of Fine Arts. It was completed in 1948, 24 years after the hotel opened. The mural covered a concrete wall that was above the reception desk. In the early 1980’s the mural was covered by mirrored panels to keep up with the popular glass and brass look that was emerging during that time. The recovery of the mural involved carefully cleaning, studying the painting and touching up brush stroke by brush stroke.

In addition to the mural, Roters also completed four panels of work in the Cavalier Room. Other important artistic features were uncovered and preserved during the restoration process, including the hand painted detail of the ceiling in the lobby and the Persian Terrace and the original cloud mural on the ceiling of the Grand Ballroom. We are so pleased that these historic works of art continue to have a place in the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

persian terrace

Originally named the Terrace room, the Persian Terrace’s original name was developed because the back half of the room is a step up from the front half. The restoration of the Persian Terrace was one of the most challenging jobs. When the hotel was being restored, the ceiling of the Persian Terrace was covered by acoustic tiling. Artists brought the ceiling back to life to it’s original look by recreating the faux wood appearance and the original hand painted images featuring mermaids.

Exterior of Marriott Syracuse Downtown

For more than 90 years, since the building’s opening in 1924, eight gargoyles watched over the hotel. Seven of the eight 4,000 pound concrete statues had cracked and deteriorated over the years and were not in shape to restore. Water seeped into the cracks in the gargoyles which froze in the winter causing the cracks to grow bigger and better, eventually even having pieces of the statue break off. Lighter, more durable replicas were made and stand at each corner of the hotel, where the original statuettes used to stand watch.

Return of the Grand Lady

In 2015, owner and developer, Ed Riley started the  restoration project to Hotel Syracuse after being closed for over a decade. The hotel closed in 2004 after battling bankruptcy and despite being sold to other owners never reopened. A fourth-generation Syracuse native, Riley said “this is likely the Hotel Syracuse’s last chance.” After a massive $75 million restoration and facing a number of challenges, the hotel successfully reopened as Marriott Syracuse Downtown on August 19, 2016 and continues its legacy.

Nowhere in Syracuse will you find a more historical hotel than at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown Hotel. It may have a brand new look but the memories remain unchanged.

Historic photos are available today thanks to Onondaga Historical Association.

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