Today in History: Mizpah Hotel Opens in 1915

Mizpah Hotel

On February 15th 1915, the Mizpah Hotel opened on the corner of Montgomery and East Jefferson Streets. The name “Mizpah” means watchtower. In addition to serving as a lodging place, its lower floors were also a location for religious gatherings of the First Baptist Church. The architect for the building was Gordon A. Wright, who also designed Salem Hyde Grade School and inventor Alexander T. Brown’s home. By the start of the 1920s the building was generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue each year. On August 30th 1984, lightning struck the bell tower and damaged one of the spires. They were all subsequently removed and the roof was capped.

Additional information on the history of the Mizpah:

  • 1911 Cornerstone laid on May 30, 1911, on the former site of the Central Baptist Church.
  • 1914 Dedication Service May 31, 1914.
  • 1915 Mizpah Hotel opened February 15, 1915 (Second Anniversary, the Mizpah) PS 2-15-17, Appendix B) The name “Mizpah” was given to the hotel by the Church board of managers to mean “A place of refuge under the tower.” The fifth floor was the first to have occupancy. (Appendix B).
  • 1931 MAJOR ALTERATIONS (MIZPAH LOBBY/ENTRANCE, ETC) by Wright and Ellis, Architects, Walter Cross and Marjorie Wright, Associates~
  • 1934 The fourth floor was appropriated by the Church for the use of Church School and as apartments for members of the Church staff and employees.
  • 1937 A weather resisting roof was placed over the skylight covering the sanctuary.
  • 1946 May 1946 Anniversary Edition photo shows absence of center tower spires. Corner tower spires still intact. “Hotel Mizpah” sign over Mizpah lobby entrance of 1931.
  • 1968 The Mizpah Restaurant takes on a new face March 1 as Syracuse only young adult coffeehouse, “The Circuit”. The interior takes on pastel-colored walls flaunting psychedelic paintings. The coffeehouse is scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, 8-12 PM. (HJ 2/28/68, Appendix N)
  • 1975 The Casavant organ completely renovated.
  • 1983 As of this year, 70 women occupy the upper three floors. The Church offices occupy the third floor, and the Powelson Business Institute rents a portion of the second floor. A daycare center operates on the first floor. (PS July 27, 1983 Appendix N)
  • 1984. Lightning struck the bell tower’s stone railing August 30, opening a pair of 12 ft. cracks in one of the four spires. The four spires are removed and the tower is capped by contractor Richard Viau. Street barricaded for one month. (PS 9/28/84, Appendix M)
  • APPROXIMATION: The central tower spires were removed sometime between 1915 to 1950.
    Plans of storeroom on roof north of Penthouse. Signed J.P.F. Completed. Not dated, but probably done within the tenure of John Francis on the Building Committee approximately 1940’s -1960’s.