Boy’s Club in Syracuse

While busy taking some photos of something else a couple of weeks ago, I stopped the car quick as I saw this old building encased on the side and top with newer construction:



Hmm, the S&W Building, never heard of it.  So of course, I had to look it up.  It ended up being the old Boy’s Club in Syracuse from 1923 to 1983, when it became an office building. Stearns & Wheeler bought and renamed the building to the S&W Building in 2001.

Here’s a photo of the building under construction in 1923:
Boy's Club Bldg_1
Photo courtesy of the Onondaga Historical Association

Another old photo:
Boy's Club Bldg_2
Photo courtesy of the Onondaga Historical Association

This makes me wonder what happened to the Boy’s Club.  I mean, if it was meant to keep boys off the streets and busy back then, I would think it would be a very good thing to have now.  Probably a money thing.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jayne
    Nov 16, 2010 @ 07:40:07

    A really beautiful building Pam. I love how you are so curious to know the history behind structures like this and can share it here!


  2. John Patterson
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 00:24:50

    I lived in Syracuse from 1942 until the 1970s. I attended the Syracuse Boy’s Club from the1940’s until 1954 when I went away to college. The Boy’s Club was one of two social organizations which provided recreation for working class black and white communities in Syracuse. The other was The Dunbar Center, which has become, I think the South Side Center, or something like that. The Boy’s club, unfortunately, never had much of a program. They did “get kids off the streets”, primarily through sports. There was a “big gym” and a “small gym” and there was basketball, basketball, basketball. There was also a boxing ring where kids could go and bash each other a bit wearing giant size mitts and being somewhat supervised. The primary purpose of the Club became to get kids to let off steam in a safe environment off the streets. The Club also ran two camps for awhile. One was on the roof of the building. It was for kids from about age 5 to 9. It accommodated about 15 – 20 kids. They slept over at the club for a week and went on daily excursions to other parts of the city or county. I was an overnight counselor for that camp for 1 year. I also attended the Club’s overnight camp, Camp Zerbe, for five years. It was wonderful. It was on a farm about 40 miles outside the city. It was on a small lake. We went boating and swimming in camp and also raised vegetables. Since the camp did not have money for large in-camp installations, we spend a lot of time hiking. My memories of that camp are prominent in my memory. Attending was very important to me. Eventually, in the
    fifties and sixties the Club began to die. As I said, it never really had a program and other organizations began to offer more for young people. I remember the insides of that building as vividly as though it was yesterday, but I am 75 and that happens with ones memory: old memories forefront, current memory, weakening.
    I was sorry to see the place close down but they really had no money and no program and the kids from the black community just stopped going there. I think the lack of money was what really closed it.


  3. John Patterson
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 00:27:46

    Forgot to say, thanks for the photos.


  4. Pam
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 20:41:48

    Dear John – thank you for your memories!


  5. John S. Patterson
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 01:59:25

    More about the Boy’s Club: On the far left side of the picture are four windows. The second window from the bottom opened on a good sized room that was a library. It was well kept, clean, and full of good books. The librarian was an elderly lady of the tea-and-crumpets variety of volunteer. She was very sweet and friendly and she kept that library reading room as a quiet oasis. It amazes me now but you could go there and read a book while the rest of the raucous activity proceeded around you. The fourth window up, on that same side, was the Senior kids lounge. The lounge was narrow but comfortable and had a working fireplace. That narrow room opened on a lounge room which was fronted by the other three windows on that same level. In there was a pool table, table tennis, and some other games I don’t remember. Off that lounge was a very formally set up meeting room with a rostrum which must have come from the 19th Century. It was heavy, carved wood, and a meeting table took up the rest of the space. For a few years the Boy’s Club Winter Camping Club met there. We would hold dances and parties during the summer and fall and raise money to go to the club’s summer camp, Camp Zerbe, for ski trips. The windows on the bottom right side of the photo opened on a print shop. Boys were actually taught to set type and print various things. I remember getting tags printed for my run for President of Syracuse Central High School. (I won, by the way.) On that same level were the small gym and the swimming pool. On the right side again, the third window up opened on a leather crafts shop where kids could make pocket purses and belts, etc. Directly behind that craft shop was a fully equipped dental office where you could get your teeth cleaned, filled, or extracted. For my early years that was the only dentistry I knew. My family was pretty broke at that time. Ahh, the memories! I see the insides of that club as if I was there yesterday!


    • Jim Irish
      Mar 22, 2012 @ 03:27:49

      Hi John:

      I was thinking about you this evening. I stopped by the Seattle Gay News office on my way home and chatted with a couple of guys and we were reminiscing about the 1980s in Seattle and the show you invited Donna and I to, your one-man show “The Dreamkeeper Speaks.” One of the guys at the SGN remembered seeing the show and how excited he was by your presentation and then I was wondering where you were today. I had tried to find you in New York City when I was visiting there in the late ’80s. So Rick at the SGN decided to try and find you through the Internet and he found this website and all the memories of our times together in Syracuse came back – so, I’m really delighted to know you’re still alive and hope you’re doing well. If you want to get in touch, my phone # is 206-789-7472 and my email address is and Facebook.

      Jim Irish


  6. John S. Patterson
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 02:03:10

    SORRY! I MADE A MISTAKE: “On the right side again”, the third window up opened on a leather crafts shop where kids could make pocket purses and belts, etc. Directly behind that craft shop

    I SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN: “On the left side again”,


  7. Miriam Barrows
    Nov 02, 2020 @ 08:36:37

    Such a wonderful place. We really need something like this now. I grew up in Syracuse from 1941 til l955 on Onondaga Avenue.and it was a wonderful city to grow up in. I went to the Boy’s and Girls Club on Shonnard Street. My name is Miriam Bieling Barrows.


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