In 1876, Joseph Silsbee was hired by three fellow Syracuse University Professors to design their homes on Syracuse’s University Hill. A newspaper article lauded the construction of these three homes and saw them as evidence of the substantial growth of the University. One of these homes was for mathematics professor and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, John R. French. It was located on what is now South Crouse Avenue, directly opposite Marshall Street. It backed up to another of these three homes, that of Dr. Charles Bennett. It appears that all three homes were occupied by the end of 1877 and French’s was the last one to be completed.
Dr. John R. French (1825-1897)
The French home would have been one of Silsbee’s earliest commissions in the city. No homes by Silsbee from this period are intact and there is relatively little photographic evidence of what they looked like. I hadn’t been able to locate a photograph of the French home but when I found that the location was at the end of the same street that Syracuse’s Good Shepherd Hospital was, I began scouring through images of the hospital in the hopes of finding one that had the house in it. I eventually found one postcard that shows the home. Unfortunately, the structure is obscured by an automobile.
You can’t get a good indication of any details on the home but the overall massing, with a hipped roof that is more than a story tall and at least one squared bay topped with a gable, suggests that it was a substantial structure. It was frame construction and an early example of Silsbee's work in the Queen Anne Style. Perhaps more images will surface in the future.