The House That Aaron Built

By Pamela A. F. Priest

In January 2012, former Syracuse Post-Standard columnist and current OHA volunteer Dick Case sent an email to OHA inquiring about “The Lyons Settlement” of Syracuse.  Research yielded a booklet entitled Home Beautiful:  The Transition of a Shabby House.  This booklet detailed the history and renovation of resident Aaron Hoyt’s “Shabby House,” originally located at 10 Baker Street (now Clinton Street), a very short street off W. Adams Street in 1851.  Imagine my surprise when I realized Aaron Hoyt was my four great-grandfathers!  This fact served to make my research and the story even more interesting and personal.

The Loomis Settlement-pg1_300
Anna E. Lyons crayon drawing from her 1909 journal, showing the homes built on West Adams street, including Aaron Hoyt’s home in the mid-right foreground.   A newspaper caption read, “Fourteenth Ward in 1854, Old Crayon Showing the Old Sixth Ward from Baker Street to Stearns Factory, With Binghamton Depot to the Right.”

Aaron Hoyt built his home on Baker Street probably using lumber cut from the land he owned in Sentinel Heights (then called East Hill).  All the lumber was hewn and scored by hand and the entire structure was put together using handmade wooden pegs.  According to Newton King, former Town of LaFayette historian, Aaron Hoyt was a local carpenter who also was responsible for the construction of several of the larger buildings located in the Village of Syracuse during the early 1800s.  Unfortunately,

Aaron Hoyt died suddenly of “ague” in 1847, as noted in his son William Hoyt’s diary:  “1847 August 26, Father & family return to Syracuse, father get down with ague”; “September 1 go to Syracuse & dig Potatoes for father”; “September 10, 11, 12 Father very Sick. Life despaired of. Sick with Summer complaint and Child Fever. Weather variable hot & cold. A sickly season in Syracuse”; “September 20 Aaron Hoyt, Sen. departed his life this Day at 4 o’clock PM in the full hope of a blessed immortality.”

Block 120 Sanborn 1882-1890 plate #2 showing 1882 portion
1882 Sanborn Map showing Aaron Hoyt’s home at 10 Baker Street on the corner of West Adams and Baker Street.

Aaron Hoyt’s wife, Sophia (Brooks) Hoyt, had her niece, Miss Mary S. Hoyt, a photographer, move into the home with her after her husband’s death.  However, shortly thereafter, Sophia decided to rent the house. She eventually moved to Lexington, Kentucky, with two of her daughters, where she died on  August 26, 1872. Son William Hoyt continued to collect rent for his family’s home.  In 1880, he chose to sell the house and property to Mrs. William Lyons for $2,500, as documented once again in his diary.  In 1882, Lyons built a concrete house in front of the little frame house erected by Hoyt so many years earlier.  Unfortunately, the original house remained vacant and became very rundown.  In 1934, after being given the moniker “Shabby House,” the Syracuse Home Improvement Campaign moved it to James Square, where it was totally renovated.  That city program was created to provide work for local labor using local materials.  Design features such as electric switches, phone outlets, washable wallpaper, rubber kitchen floor and clothes closets were included.  Renovation costs came in at $3,850 with furnishings, appliances and decorative elements adding another $1,876.  Local architect Webster Moulton oversaw the renovations.  Decorations were provided by another local business, G.W. Richardson and Son, Inc., and a local landscaper provided the landscaping plan.  Once completed, the public was invited to view the end results and thousands passed through the newly designed front entrance.

2012.109D Aaron Hoyt Home aka Shabby House original home

The house at James Square (James and North Warren Streets) so people could watch its transformation.

Several publications continued to follow the intriguing story of the “Shabby House.”  In February of 1976, the Syracuse Herald-American featured the house, which was then owned by Dan and Jo-Anne Murphy, and in January of 1997, the Syracuse Post-Standard covered it.  While rummaging in a shop in Seattle, Washington, one of the This Old House  magazine writers found a copy of the 1934 booklet produced to detail the rebirth of the house.  The booklet intrigued the writer to conduct further research resulting in a feature article for the Jan/Feb 1997 edition.


 Illustration from article published in the December 1934 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.

2012.114D Aaron  Hoyt Home aka Shabby House at James Square

Aaron Hoyt’s home transformed from “Shabby House” to “House Beautiful.”

Today, Aaron Hoyt’s “Shabby House” still stands on Ashdale Ave. – a testament to the outstanding construction abilities and methods of its original builder and owner, Aaron Hoyt, in 1838.

Unedited version here!

Happy Ending!

I still take quite a few photos when the mood strikes, and I upload them to Flickr, but that’s about it.  So I figured it’s about time to write a post, before the end of 2011, so I can start with a clean slate.  Let’s see, since Letchworth with Mom, I’ve captured photos of the old John Deere / Case Supply building in Syracuse, now being converted to our local PBS station, WCNY.

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(I didn’t take this photo, I would have centered it better, hee hee)

A couple of months later, I was told to get my hiney back there, because they tore out the middle section of the complex:

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And on the northwest side, they found an interesting structure in the middle of another portion they tore down. Safes are inside of this little structure. The safe on the top floor will be opened and displayed.

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I documented via photos and web (not done with the web yet) the Octagon Schoolhouse Cemetery, and filed for an historic marker, since this cemetery has NO marker or sign, at all.

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I’ll find out next year if the marker is approved.

My apartment was full of ghoulish things for Halloween (not mine), but I do like the lights in the window.

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I try to capture the full moon on December 10 over Irondequoit Bay.

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There are some funky clouds in this one:
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I try to go for a ride in the snow at the New York Museum of Transportation, but alas, no snow:

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This was our engineer:
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After the snowless trolley ride, I checked out the museum, and the buses outside. How about this old greyhound bus?
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Next I learned that East Rochester used to be called Despatch, and yes, it was a big railroad town. I have rare film footage of a factory there that built railroad cars. Cool beans! This is the railroad side of Despatch Junction:
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Here’s part of the old factory where they built the RR cars:
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I think the side of this building says “Merchants Despatch”
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And we had a great time at Aunt Avie’s and Uncle Jerry’s home for Thanksgiving this year. Here I am holding my cousin’s new baby girl. Don’t you love the way my cousin looks at his daughter?

And then there’s Christmas. I haven’t downloaded the photos yet, but the old apartment windows are highly decorated with icicle and other lights and dripping with fake snow, since there’s no real snow. Yet!

Three Years, Phew!

Recently, well, okay, on April 8th, the third year of my Dad’s passing, we went to LaFayette to honor him and put his Veteran’s marker in the ground to get ready for the American flags the cemetery will put out on all of the Veterans’ grave sites.  I didn’t take any more photos of his tombstone, because, well, I have a million of them already, and how many more do I need? But I did take this quick photo while we were driving up to his site, one of which I’ve taken before and I’ll take again and again, yes I will, because it’s where I grew up and I love the hills.

View from cemetery where my Dad, grandparents, and other relatives are in repose.

On the way to him, we always stop at one of my favorite Finger Lakes:


Skaneateles Lake, nice and calm, in the morning.

This lake’s water is awesomely clear:

Sherwood Inn, faces the lake:

We also stopped at a really cool quilt store where Mom bought some fabric for quilts she is making for sick children:

Yeah, did I mention how much I love the hills in Onondaga County?

Oh, before we got to Skaneateles, we had to go through Montezuma, where I did see Osprey, but couldn’t capture them, but did capture a couple of their nests:


Even though I still miss my Dad very much, I am very glad to be through all of the phases of grief, especially the anger part – that was a really tough one.  Being really ticked off is very exhausting.

My Retro Photo on Facebook

My high school graduation – I’ll never forget it. It was held in the Onondaga County War Memorial, and my Dad’s Dad was in the hospital (and ended up dying), so my poor Dad was tired from all of his family obligations, plus he worked out of town, so, even though we both have smiles on our faces, and I was happy to graduate, it was also a sad time, because my Grandpa was so sick. Anyway, this is the photo I chose to use as my retro photo on Facebook.

West Genesee Senior High School graduation.

What I Miss

I spent a lot of time in the car on my day off due to a traffic issue on the highway, and listened to “Whatever” where they were asking “what do you miss from years gone by,” and I couldn’t really think of anything, except to be a kid without the huge adult responsibilities, but I hated being a kid because I grew up when parents were really tough on their kids.

Anyway, I just came up with what I miss.  I miss eating whatever the heck we wanted to, and eating whatever we wanted to really didn’t include any junk food except an occasional half-moon cookie or ice-cream.  We ate really good and we ate everything whole, as in whole milk, cheese, etc.   My Mom and I baked bread and cookies and pies and nobody was obese.  We ate three squares, and my parents allowed us to eat whatever we wanted to after school.

At my grandparents’ home. Wow, it sucks to think three people sitting at this table are gone from us.

So what happened? People told us, don’t eat fats, don’t eat sugars, don’t eat this, don’t eat that, here have this fake “sugar,” fake this, fake that. When I was kid we did not sit around the house playing computer games, txting, watching TV and whatever else. We were *very* active. I know there’s more that’s happened, but let me just say, I miss being able to cook and eat the way we used to.

New Year’s Day Tradition

As I was talking to one of my friends this morning, I asked him what he was going to do with his five year old daughter today.  He said he didn’t know yet.  I told him to start a tradition!  And as I said this, it reminded me of what my Dad’s New Year’s Day tradition was when I was growing up.  He would always make Maple Syrup Candy.  I haven’t made it in years so I don’t have any pics, but I haven’t forgotten how to make it.

Sugar Maple tree

This also brought to mind another recipe that my Dad liked and we would make every once in a while:  Condensed Milk Pudding.   I haven’t made this is years either, so again, no pics, but I wanted to post the recipe before it got lost.

So what New Year’s Day tradition(s) did you or do you have?

One For November

Wow, I cannot believe it’s the last day in November and I have ignored my blog this month. A lot has happened, but pretty much I haven’t photographed anything but work and Thanksgiving, so here you go, some Thanksgiving photos:

My Mom loves artichoke french, so I have to make it for her, and for me.

My Mom’s Christmas Cactus is actually a Thanksgiving Cactus

Along with the dressing, squash is one of my favorite Thanksgiving day foods

The horn of plenty my Aunt made for my Mom by hand (she also made me one).

I love these Thanksgiving plates

The stuffed Plainville Farm Turkey – looks yummy!

My Mom likes to burn beeswax candles during dinner

Now on to December!

Always Interesting – Today, the LONGSTREET Family

I love helping other people with their research at OHA, because sometimes I come across my own family, and I make a mental note to stay after work on a Sat or Sun to look through the information.  This past week I was looking for something, and came across some nice photos of my great-great grandmother’s sister’s husband and child.

Cabinet photo of Byron Longstreet, son of Dr. James Oliver Longstreet and Emily Victoria Seaver
Photo courtesy of Onondaga Historical Association

I love carte de visite and cabinet photographs.  I have a large, unidentified daguerreotype that was handed down through my family to me.  I thought perhaps it may be these two, and now I can do a side-by-side comparison and see if this may be possible.

Cabinet photo of Dr. James Oliver Longstreet.
Photo courtesy of Onondaga Historical Association.

Imagine my surprise when I looked through these photographs and saw names I recognized!

Dr. James Oliver Longstreet
Photo courtesy of Onondaga Historical Association.

Dr. James Oliver Longstreet is also the son of my Great-Grandmother’s aunt. The LONGSTREET surname is a famous one in Onondaga County, and someday (after hours) I’ll do the research into it (there are broken links when clicking on Longstreet due to Ancestry taking over Rootsweb).  So much to do, so little time!  Oh, and I have other stories to tell.  It will take time to gather the info!

The 60’s, Out of the Mouth of Babes. . .

Central New York History day is coming up this Saturday, and while I chose not to attend (volunteer vs. make money, guess which one I picked), I have been helping Scott get ready for it.  One of the categories is papers that young people write.  This one paper said something like this, ‘I read a book about 1968, and now I totally understand the 60’s.’



I *lived* through it, albiet as a young child, and I still don’t get it.  Could someone please explain it to me?  Thank you very much.

My older brother and me. This is scanned from a really lousy slide, but it expresses well how I feel about the 60’s, a very scary, strange and psychedelic decade.

Time Goes By!

Yay, it’s Friday night! Is there anything better than Friday night after a hard week? I don’t think so! And I can’t believe how fast time goes by. I’ll try to catch up with my blogging friends over the weekend.

Tick tock clock my Grandfather gave to my Grandmother (Dad’s side) as an engagement present.
Hmmm, I’d rather have a clock than a ring too because I don’t like to wear jewelry.

I hope you enjoy the weekend!

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