The exhibit tells the story of Onondaga County’s legacy with energy innovation and begins with Onondaga Lake and the Native American philosophy of respect for the environment, then travels through time to examine early local windmill manufacturers and wind power, as well as the efficiencies of the Syracuse-made Ner-A-Car and Franklin auto, to the first centrifugal chiller made by Carrier Corp. and installed in the lithography department at Onondaga Pottery Co. The exhibit also analyzes the historic legacy of the Center of Excellence’s site, in relation to the Erie Canal, railroad travel through Syracuse, and typewriter manufacturing.
The land that the Syracuse Center of Excellence occupies is also very historic. For many years it was a residential area with many African American families living in close proximity. Beginning in the early 20th century, the site changed from residential to commercial with the L.C. Smith & Bros. typewriter factory, which occupied the area until 1960. Across the street was the New York Central railroad station built in 1936. The site also served as the first home to Onondaga Community College in 1962 when the old Smith typewriter factory reopened as Midtown Plaza.