Onondaga County Courthouse: Onondaga Lake’s Heritage

This exhibition, located on the fourth floor of the Onondaga County Courthouse, features a selection of images that focuses on Onondaga Lake’s past, present, and future.

This is a cooperative effort between OHA , Office of the Governor of New York State, SUNY ESF, Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program, Honeywell, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Audubon Society, COR Development, Destiny USA, SUNY Morrisville, O’Brien & Gere, and the New York State Fair.

More about Onondaga Lake

Prior to the American Revolution, the area around Onondaga Lake was the center of the Iroquois Confederacy. In 1654, the Onondaga Nation, one of the founding five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, revealed the presence of salt springs on the southern shores of the lake to the French. This set the path for the development of commercial salt production, which began on the lake shore in 1793, ending in the 20th century.  By 1940, Onondaga Lake was declared unsafe for swimming and by the 1970’s fishing was banned due to the amount of contaminants pumped in by companies such as The Solvay Process. Waste produced from production of these materials were land filled along the western and south western portions of the lake; and in some cases waste was directly discharged into the lake.  This severely degraded the quality of the waters of Onondaga Lake and surrounding areas. Sewage disposal and other industrial discharges that were increasing during this period further degraded the water quality.