Tell Me Something Good: Looking to the past

Tell Me Something Good

(WSYR-TV) — Everybody wants to get back to a time that’s a little more… normal. Seeing construction underway helps.

Work has begun on a project five years in the making, to help restore a Syracuse landmark. The Barnes Hiscock Mansion is a reminder of days when the homes of local business leaders lined James Street, and a symbol of the role Syracuse played in the fight against slavery.

The house was built in 1853 by George and Rebecca Barnes. “Their significance in the community is that they were very active abolitionists,” according to Dick Butler, interim Executive Director of the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation. 

“You can see from the construction that it was built in such a way to hide people,” says Butler. “The Barnes family actually owned a lumber business, and they would take wagons filled with lumber to Canada, where they had a lumber mill. Well, interestingly enough, hidden beneath some of that lumber were people.”

Construction crews are now working on the roof and the towering signature columns along James Street, thanks to a $200,000 grant from New York State matched with $100,000 from donors. Because of concerns about the integrity of the structure, work was delayed only slightly when the state went on lockdown. But the coronavirus pandemic has still hurt.

The Barnes Foundation lost its major spring fundraiser, Dancing with our Stars, a competition that dates back more than a decade. They hope to reschedule it later in the year.

They’ve reached out to long-time supporters to help keep things going, at a time when there are so many other needs in the community. But Dick Butler says he’s glad to be able to offer a little good news, just when Central New York needs it the most.

“It’s taken us a little bit, but last Tuesday our construction guys came and got started, so I thought, you know, what a great thing to show Central New York.”

Butler says the Barnes Foundation can always use support, whether it’s financial or volunteer efforts. He invites people to check out their website at grbarnes.org or to give them a call at 315-422-2445.  

And with any luck, he hopes they’ll be able to reopen their doors and welcome the community back later this year.


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