Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A New Way to Explore Downtown

Downtown Syracuse is the heart of the city, the cultural hub of Onondaga County, and a place where those who work actually spend little time exploring.

The group waits for the historical tour to begin.
A new joint initiative involving the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, SUNY Oswego Metro Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the American Heart Association, Metro Fitness, the YMCA of Greater Syracuse and Fleet Feet Sports aims to get folks out and about, exploring different facets of downtown during a 45-minute stroll.

It's called Wednesday Walk, and the group meets at Clinton Square at noon. Participants will be asked to sign a waiver, not only for liability purposes but also granting any of the sponsoring groups the right to use their photo in supporting literature.

The June 10 walk was a Historical Tour, and it highlighted the impressive structures scattered throughout downtown. Walk leader Bethany Holbrook, an Economic Development and Marketing Specialist at the Downtown Committee, brought up interesting historical factoids along the way.

For instance, did you know the Syracuse Savings Bank building, 1 Clinton Square, was at one time the tallest in the city? And it had the city's first elevator for which you could pay 10 cents per ride? Then there's the Courier Building, across Montgomery Street from City Hall. While most of the structure has been renovated into luxury apartments, a balcony remains on the eastern side (it is pictured below, with flowers on it). It was from this balcony that Daniel Webster gave his famous “Syracuse Speech” on May 26, 1851. Webster warned local abolitionists that aiding and abetting fugitive slaves would be considered treasonous, an interesting tactic considering Syracuse was known as a hotbed of abolition. Remember when the restaurant space inside this building was called "Daniel Webster's?" Yeah, me neither.

The impetus for Wednesday Walk came from the various sponsors listed above. "We have pockets of wellness initiatives combined with the revitalization of downtown," said Holbrook. "We want to show people that downtown is a great place, it's safe. We want to expose it to employees who are here during the week to work; we'll take them places perhaps they didn't know existed."

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse has published a booklet, "Historic Downtown Walking Tour," providing a more comprehensive tour of the city center. This was the source of the abbreviated Historical  Tour of June 10. The glossy piece features photos of each site, as well as writeup explaining why each is included in the book in the first place. A map will guide you, or help you break the walk into smaller segments. You can find the same information online at

In addition to learning something new and different about downtown Syracuse, the series also offers prizes as incentives for participating. The Stinky Sneaker Award goes to the participant who attends the most walks. The prize is a free pair of sneakers and a fitting from Fleet Feet. Soles of Downtown will go to the downtown company with the most employee participation. The winner receives a catered lunch for the Wednesday Walk participants.

Wednesday Walk sessions continue until October.

Mark Your Calendar
Participants in Wednesday Walk will want to wear comfortable shoes, apply sunscreen and wear a hat since at noon the sun beats down. The walk will be canceled only in the event of extreme weather--a rain shower means you should bring your umbrella; a downpour means no walk that day. This is the lineup for the remainder of the series:

June 24: Downtown Parks
July 8: Murals
July 22: Downtown Parks
July 29: Downtown Parks (this walk will be geared toward more elderly participants, so it will feature a leisurely pace)
Aug. 5: Murals
Aug. 19: Parking Garages
Sept. 2: Meeting Spaces
Sept. 16: Architecture Tour
Sept. 30: Meeting Spaces
Oct. 14: Parking Garages

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