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Onondaga Historical Association Honors Salina Street's Heyday With New Exhibit

This week, the Onondaga Historical Association is capturing a bygone era in Downtown Syracuse with the opening of their newest exhibit, “Strolling Down Salina Street: 1940 to 1980."  Curator Bob Searing says the idea came from holiday pictures of Salina Street after World War II.

"I mean from the 50s and 60s you've got kind of garland strewn across the entire street," Searing said. "You've got cars double parked. People ten deep on teh sidewalks. If I showed you the picture and didn't tell you what it was, you would think it was somewhere in New York City. Beautiful lights everywhere."

Searing continued, "And we have a lot of window display shots. I can think of one of them off the top of my head. We have the Addis company in the early 1950s with these beautiful white reindeer and lights and fake snow everywhere."

About five weeks ago the OHA made a call out to the general public for any artifacts or photos they may kept after all these years dating back to the 1880's. 

"We had so many people reach out with such a wide array of item," Searing said. "From boxes to advertising materials to actual articles of clothing. We've got a wedding dress that was purchased from the Addis Company. So it's been amazing to see the outpouring of support and interest from the community. I've been running around Syracuse picking up items, listening to stories and really reliving those memories." 

Searing adds that photos show that most of the development and activity first happened along 100 block along the Erie Canal through Downtown.  The Deys Family broke the mold when they took a chance and built their department store in the 400 block of Salina when it was still surrounded by farmland.

"When the Deys built their business, which is where Kubal is now," Searing said. "They built that in 1894. They were like laughed at. People were like 'Why are you building a store out in the country?'"

However, the Deys family had the last laugh and their venture pulled commerce further down Salina. Searing says it laid the ground work for others to follow like street level shops, Sibley’s department store, and several movie theaters.  The exhibit “Strolling Down Salina Street” will have some of vintage movie posters and will be presented in city blocks.  It opens this Wednesday at the OHA at 321 Montgomery.  

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.