By: Lillee Allee
The Marriott Syracuse Downtown (Formerly the Hotel Syracuse)
500 S Warren St,
Syracuse, NY 13202
Definitely historical, but possibly haunted?
The 1920s were a time of growth for cities such as Syracuse, New York. In 1921, to solve the need for more hotel rooms in the city, a group of businessmen were able to raise $3.8 million to build a hotel. Construction began in 1922 on Warren Street. George B. Post built the Hotel Syracuse and then moved on to the Waldorf Astoria. After a few problems with financing, the 600 room hotel opened in 1924. Its beauty and feeling of opulence were unmatched in the city. Parties and weddings were held in the gorgeous Grand Ballroom or the later added Persian Terrace. The Rainbow Lounge with its unique bar, and the Cavalier Room, with men-only hours, were frequented by locals and guests. The hotel was not built on an empty lot, but a hotel, the 4-story Truax, was already on the location. This building was moved by rollers across the street and turned so that it still faced Onondaga Street. Amazingly, the workers stayed in the hotel as it was slowly wheeled, inch by inch. It remained in full operation during this 90 day endeavor. A church and some homes were demolished for the build.
Jackie Coogan, the child star who worked with Charlie Chaplin and later played “Fester” in the Addams Family television series was present for the grand opening and the first to sign in as a guest. The flood of celebrities continued through the years including Babe Ruth,, Mickey Mantle, Charles Lindbergh, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon and George W. Bush. Guests also included Nelson Eddy, Jean Harlow, Redd Skelton , Whitney Houston, Kim Basinger, skater Katarina Witt, Nata King Cole, Bob Hope, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. In 1971, John Lennon escorted his wife, Yoko Ono on her trip to Syracuse for the opening of her art exhibit “This is not Here” at the nearby Everson Museum. The couple stayed in the hotel for John’s 30th birthday and were joined by Phil Spector, and Ringo Starr. John asked an employee to procure some guitars, this lucky man ended up jamming with John on several songs for the party. The Lennons thoroughly enjoyed their stay and spoke highly of the hotel.A historic reunion of the Beatles was planned for Syracuse in 1974, but sadly it never took place … anywhere.
Early on, radio station WSYR moved into the hotel and made the place famous by recording and broadcasting bands in the Persian terrace. In 1954, the television station WSYR started broadcasting a fashion show for ladies at home with a full orchestra present.. The fashions were by the buyer of the Addis Company, who had won the award of “best hatted woman in Central New York “ by the National Millinery Institute. The Walnut, a private dining room became a popular officers’ club during World War II. The hotel’s famous mural, currently being cleaned, was put up above the check-in desk in the lobby. It shows many important events in the history of the area including the Iroquois Confederacy and the Jerry Rescue.
The hotel has lots of interesting history with all types of mysteries.. On March 22, 1954, on the 9th floor, a guest found a burglar in her room rummaging through her jewelry. The man escaped through a window. At that time, there were hotel detectives to protect guests. These employees watched out for the very well-to-do who frequented the hotel. It was around this time when paranormal events were first recorded. Employees were reporting feeling a hand on their shoulder, but there was no one there. The mystery of the empty bucket also became one of the well-known stories where bartenders deposited the remains of drinks not finished in a bucket and every night take it to the main kitchen to be cleaned. The bucket was often found empty even when the room was locked.
Like any other hotel, this site has had its shares of guest deaths. The most frightening occurred on New Year’s Eve, 1984. In the new part of the hotel, the Hilton Tower, built in 1980, an elevator stalled with about 20 people in it. According to the Associated Press, it stopped between the 10th and 11th floors. Two men pried open the doors and helped others from the elevator onto the 10th floor. A 31 year old man jumped into a crouching position, but fell backward and fell down a 100 foot elevator shaft. The paranormal events continued.. A psychic claimed there was a male ghost in Room 517. Doors would lock and unlock without individuals. Stories continued to circulate among the staff about a lady in a blue dress covered in blood. Staff reported doors opening or closing by themselves, phones ringing from empty rooms, and the feeling of someone in an empty corridor with them.
For 80 years, the Hotel survived, but closed its doors in 2004. However, the hotel remained secure so the building was spared any vandalism but still damage was done due to the deterioration on the inside. Many companies had promised the city that the hotel would open its doors, but none came to fruition and this led to just more physical neglect. The hotel remains on the registry of historic places.. The Hotel Syracuse will shine again, however, and after a 57 million dollar renovation to the original splendor and modernization of all floors, is planned to open in March 2016. Due to changes in guest habits, the rooms will be enlarged and will have less than 300 available, over half of what it originally had. The Hotel has survived, while all of the other grand hotels in the city of Syracuse have not. One has to wonder who continues to walk the halls when no humans are present.
Onondaga Historical Association, “Suite Stories Ghostwalk.” December 28. 2014.
The Region, elevator stalls, man falls to death. New York Times, January 2, 1984.
Personal interviews 1985-1999.
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