Saturday, June 12, 2010

10 things I like about the place where I grew up (in no particular order)

While visiting in Syracuse, I thought it would be neat to blog a bit about some of the things I enjoy about the place.  I've had the great fortune of living in some nice areas: Westchester County in New York State, Chicago, and Buffalo.  All of these locations have a lot of great things but like most people I tend to hold the places where I have lived to a standard based on the place where I grew up.  Here are a few things that I find myself always comparing places to.   
It's so close to so many other great places
I know, this sounds like a big cop out because it has little to do with CNY itself and more to do with the places near it.  There is still something to say about a place where day trips can easily be taken to Niagara Falls, the Thousand Islands, Adirondacks, Catskills and even New York City.   

Columbus Bakery
A bakery seems like such a simple idea.  I don't understand why so many places are lacking good bakeries.  One of the best is on the North Side of Syracuse and it's called Columbus.  Usually the bread is hot, pulled fresh from fiery ovens by bakers caked in flour. 

Architectural Ruins
I like my ruins industrial, I like them big, and I like them to have a lot of patina.  Surrounding the city of Syracuse are a number of vacant industrial areas.  Many have been "cleaned up over the years but a handful still stand as impressive reminders of the area's strong industrial heritage.  One of the best is Split Rock Quarry, located just beyond the western edge of the city.  It is best known by teenagers as a local hang-out but the place has a long history that covers mining for building stone, munitions production during World War I, and limestone supply for the Solvay Process Company.
Arts & Crafts
My Appreciation for the Arts & Crafts started at an early age.  No, the Syracuse schools don't expose their children to more pipe cleaners and glue sticks than other communities, I am talking about the Arts & Crafts movement, a period in art and architecture that favored beautiful but simple hand made furniture, artwork, publications, and other products.  With Stickley furniture, Robineau Pottery, and the architectural work of geniuses like Ward Wellington Ward, Syracuse is an undisputed center of the Arts & Crafts movement in America.   

It shocks me that there are still people in Syracuse that love Italian food yet don't know about Lombardi's.  This gem of a grocery store sits at the corner of Butternut and Lodi and is THE place for fresh pastas, cheeses and Italian meats.  It is most entertaining standing in line on Christmas Eve as everyone is ordering their meat trays for the midnight celebration.  Hint: pick up a pound of Genoa Salami and then head over to Columbus for some bread.  Heaven.

Clark's Ale House
Before there were beer bars on every street corner, in just about every town, there was Clark's.  This pioneer beer drinker's paradise serves up 21 draft beers and some of the best roast beef around.  No TVs and no piped-in music, you have to resort to conversation for your only entertainment. 

Middle Ages Brewing Company
Along the same lines, if you are looking for great local brew, travel over to the near West Side and in an old ice cream factory sits Middle Ages Brewing Company.  They are always serving up ample tasters and a great variety of beers.  You can't leave without a growler or two.     

The best sledding anywhere
Syracuse draws it's water from Skaneateles Lake and stores it in reservoirs surrounding the city.  The earliest of these were located in hilltops that surround downtown and one of the most unique public parks systems was built around them.  As the city grew, larger reservoirs were needed and constructed beyond the city edges.  These huge mowed hillsides have been a favorite areas for sledding for years.  I grew up within walking distance of Westcott Reservoir.  Due to the danger of sledding there, it has been "shut down" in recent years.  I often lament that my daughter, growing up in the Midwest, will never know what sledding really is. 

If you've been to Wegmans, I really don't need to say more.  This place has it all.  If it is good enough to keep Alec Baldwin's mom living in CNY, then it has to be worth mentioning.
The Syracuse Savings Bank Building
I am a big fan of good architecture.  Though I live in the OP, I still haven't become a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan.  You can keep that modern stuff (anything built after 1890).  I really like my architecture old and covered with ornament.  My adage for architectural appreciation is: "the more gargoyles, the better."  In my opinion, few people did it better than Silsbee and his finest creation still graces the eastern edge of Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse.

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