A map of many colors, 1937

If you’ve studied the history of real estate and urban development at all, you’ve probably heard the term “redlining.” This was a result of the secret system of residential mapping that banks used to determine who was and wasn’t going to be extended federal guaranteed mortgages. You can read all about it (and see full size maps) at Syracuse Then and Now:

First, the appraisers (real estate personnel, mostly) looked for any signs of decay or neglect that might indicate a neighborhood was in decline. Surveyors also looked for any sign of minorities. This included not only African Americans but also Jews and “foreign born whites” such as Poles and Italians. Even a single home occupied by a minority family in a distant corner of a neighborhood could cause the entire area to be downgraded for mortgage insurance.

“Undesirable” neighborhoods were mapped in red. The next step up from red was yellow, or Third Grade:

These were older neighborhoods with housing styles that might now be “out of fashion.” Often neighborhood covenants had expired. And, of course, these areas were subject to “infiltration of a lower grade population.”

The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) map of Fairmount in 1937 is included with their city of Syracuse map. By 1937, Old Fairmount was considered “yellow” — undoubtedly because of its location near the railroad, and almost certainly also because of its status as a Solvay Process bedroom community with an ethnic “foreign born” populations.

Aside from a peek at economic discrimination in pre-war Syracuse, the map also happens to give a pre-war snapshot of the Fairmount Hills subdivision and Fairmount Fair. The as-yet-unbuilt Fairmount Hills tract is shown with its pre-development street names. These names were as follows:

Avenue A: Stockton Place
Avenue B: Skyview Terrace
Avenue C: Jarrett (Winfield) Drive
Avenue D: Terrace Drive
Avenue E: Fairwood Drive
Avenue F: Hollowcrest Drive
1st Street: Chapel Drive
2nd Street: Hillbrook Drive
3rd Street: Inwood Drive
4th Street: Kimberly Drive
5th Street: Glenview Parkway
6th Street: Arbordale Drive
7th Street: Roselane Terrace

The new residents of Fairmount Hills were asked to vote on new street names c. 1954.

And what were the plans for the other side of Onondaga Road before WW2 happened and the Baby Boomers came home and changed everything? A residential district in the making, framed by a long-lost western segment of Dorchester Road, which now currently exists only as a truncated version to the east in Westvale. (This map corroborates the observation that the access road from Onondaga Road to the Fairmount Fair Target was in fact in existence before the mall was even planned.)


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