Interview with SyracuseB4

Sean Kirst interviews the enigmatic and exceedingly well-informed SyracuseB4, aka Theresa Rusho. Great stuff, check it out. One quote jumped out at me, however:

There is a tendency to view the destruction of James Street as inevitable civic change. Rusho breaks that idea on the rocks. She’s found clips from the 1950s that establish how James Street was targeted by a municipal plan that today seems absolutely mad. Indeed, even as our great landmarks were being razed, The Post-Standard of 1952 carried an article that mocked these “rambling homes, surrounded by acres of lawn (that) are of another era. People today don’t go in for big, ornate mansions. …”

It’s weird, but that’s pretty much what forward-thinking people say today about McMansions in the burbs! It’s an intriguing quote.

6 thoughts on “Interview with SyracuseB4

  1. sean

    the piece reminded me again of how we’ve got to have our second ‘bloggerthon;’ i really wanted to do it at beak & skiff last autumn, and never pulled it off.

    re: your point about the mansions. the one difference, i would venture, is that the mansions of james street had been there for 60 years or so, even in the 1950s, while the ‘mcmansions’ are clear-cut in otherwise wild areas of the county … and the other separation is simple quality. the mansions in the city were constructed by the finest architects, craftspeople and artisans in the community (and beyond), with lasting and precious result. not sure the mcmansions meet that threshold.

  2. syracuse b-4

    Thanks for the mention. (And thanks for linking me on your blog shortly after I started writing!)

    Regarding the (Mc)Mansions- oddly enough, at the same time the city leaders were advocating tearing down the mansions, they were predicting the existence of McMansions in the suburbs fifty years into the future. I’ll be posting something about it in a few days.

  3. sean

    the day i started blogging, i got a welcome note from ‘nyco,’ who remains the heart of our blogging community.

    and b-4, pretty amazing conversation on the blog about your stuff … i think it plays out a point you made: some of the people who made those decisions – and their kids – are still around, and taking a hard look can sometimes be a painful thing.

    but if we don’t, it will continue to be painful for cascading generations.


  4. Robinia

    Sean– having done remodeling work in McMansions and old craftsman-style “rambling homes,” can assure you that your surmise on relative technical quality/”built to last” capacity is correct. An old McMansion is going to be a very expensive place to heat and repair.

  5. Josh

    Some leading urban theorists believe that this newest crop of McMansions (as Robinia says, typically of poor quality) will be by necessity converted to multifamily apartments. Seems silly to me but with natural limits emerging, I think the article that Ellen cites has it right…only the richest suburbs will be afford to maintain their current lifestyle and life cycle.

    And to think of how different James Street would be had these mansions stayed intact rather than filling landfills, that really seems like another universal rule of planning not to be violated. It was bad planning then, no matter the prevailing thought.

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