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Owners' Perspective: Why we love 140 Circle Rd

What I love about 140 Circle Road.
Moving my four young children to this house 18 years ago remains one of the happiest days of my life. Since that time the colorful nursery and kids bedrooms with balloon document wallpaper has given way to grown up bedrooms as one by one the kids have left this happy nest. It was an ideal setting to raise them all.
Every morning we wake up in a tree house. Though we are a mere couple of miles from the center of downtown Syracuse, a 45-minute walk, we see nothing but trees, an expanse of lawn, and sky outside our windows. Our closest neighbor is below us on the hill so in every way, we sit atop the world here.
As soon as I round the hidden driveway a sense of calm washes over me. With dozens of majestic oak trees trimmed above the roof line, the entire one-acre property is like a giant outdoor room. Those trees keep the house cooler in the summer, but allow the sunshine to pour in in wintertime when the leaves fall to the ground.
By the way, make sure to rake those leaves into the evergreen foundation plantings. It’s nearly impossible to grow rhododendron like mine, and I succeeded after 18 years of amending the soil naturally with the acidic oak leaf mulch. You’ll be rewarded with green year round, which is particularly appreciated during the otherwise stripped down Syracuse winter, and in June watch those shrubs explode with giant purple flowers.
In three seasons of weather I bring my coffee outside and choose between the dining table among the trees in the ultra-private back yard, the recliners near the cushy border of myrtle in the back corner of the property, or my personal favorite-the swivel chairs in the gentle bend of lawn near the driveway. From this command post I watched my boys shoot hoops in the driveway and I watched magnificent sunsets move along the western edge of the house and hills beyond.
In the summer I have total privacy and exclusivity. In the winter the leaves tumble away to reveal the twinkling lights of the Valley section of Syracuse and Onondaga Hill beyond. You can see Upstate Hospital at Community General carved in the hill in the distance, Mount Olympus and the dorm atop the drumlin to the northeast and tips of some of the awesome historic monuments in Oakwood Cemetery on the other side of Comstock Avenue, a great place to walk the dogs. The 100 acre resting place of Syracuse’s most influential founders and industrialists is more like a public park than cemetery with art students sketching and sitting among the trees to absorb all the information they’re taking in in class.
There are walking paths in the woods behind the back of the house that lead directly to the art building and Manley Field House, or you can walk up to the Morningside Water Towers and see for miles to the south. Few people ever get up there because the access road is closed to vehicular traffic. Only the neighbors know the existence of this path to the top.
There is a unique rhythm to life in the Syracuse University neighborhood which begins with the arrival of students in late August. There is electricity in the air. Suddenly people are walking everywhere; students to class and professors commuting by foot or bicycle to the quad. This is one neighborhood where the sidewalks have true purpose and street lights guide the way late into the night.
Our little historic district is quite removed from all the college activity below our hill. We can sample it so easily but retreat to the quiet and peace of long, long term homeowners in the district. We walk to Marshall St. or Westcott St. for some of Syracuse’s most diverse and popular cuisine, we cruise past all the cars sitting in traffic from the suburbs as fans attend a football or basketball game at the Carrier Dome. For us, it’s just a ten minute walk through the neighborhood. Offer up a parking space in the driveway to your friends and see how popular you become.
When spring arrives the students move out again and you wonder when an academic year shrunk to be so brief. The contractors arrive to begin summer improvements to the rentals, we open the windows to a constant gentle breeze on this hill and the neighborhood yields to the crickets and birds.
We walk in the direction away from campus to access Barry Park and all you see are families and children. Tennis courts, playground equipment and soccer fields are enjoyed by all. Watch the plein air painters create art at the edge of the duck pond at dusk. Parents bring their children to see the geese. Joggers and strollers take the path that rings the pond and you must remind yourself you are within the city limits. What city? It’s like the country here yet so close to downtown.
Astonishingly, I am only the fourth owner of this home that was built in 1926, and I have met the descendants of every buyer since the very beginning. Renowned architect Merten Elwood Granger designed the home for Dr. Roy Seeley Moore and Moore’s grandson is now a member of Onondaga Country Club. We spoke recently about his memories of visiting his grandparents in this house.
Four years ago I was in the front yard when an unfamiliar mini-van pulled into the driveway. It was the son of the second owner visiting from the North Country where he now resides, to visit the old homestead. We chatted for 20 minutes as I mined this invaluable trove of information about the history of the house.
The man’s last name was Pomeroy and he was a teenager when his parents bought the house in 1948. He recalled his dad doing a lot of work in advance of the move; renovating three of the bathrooms and the entire kitchen. I came along and did the kitchen again, however I left those custom-built 1948 cabinet frames. They have remarkable storage capacity – far greater than the cabinets of today.
Pomeroy lined the master bedroom ante room with shelving and did various other decorating changes. Interestingly, I sensed those shelves were not original to the house and I removed them in the 1990s. When I stripped the old wallpaper behind them, I saw a worker’s name written in pencil on the plaster. It was dated 1948. Mystery explained.
The Pomeroys lived here until 1963 when the third owners took possession. Dr. Dickenson, an ophthalmologist, and his family hold the record for the longest tenured ownership. They remained until I bought the property in December of 1994, a total of 31 years, before downsizing to a smaller home in the Hamlet in Dewitt. Unfortunately they took with them the original French doors that separate the living room from the sunroom. I wish I could reunite those lovely doors with this otherwise perfectly preserved piece of Syracuse residential history.
It has been an honor to reside here and I have taken stewardship of this place very seriously. I’ve ripped out shag carpeting, plate glass mirrors which covered the sconces above the fireplace, In removing the 1970s velvet flocked and foil wallpaper in the front hallway, I revealed a toile pattern from the 1940s. The effect was so lovely that I found a classic Pierre Deux print and installed it, not once in 18 years, but twice!
I’ve spent a zillion dollars to custom mill new woodwork to replicate the original South American gumwood throughout the house. I needed it when I removed the 1950s-era vinyl diner-style built-in bench lining the breakfast room. Need more for future projects or repair? Cornue Woodworks in Nelson will run off all the trim you need at considerable savings now that the molds are created and in their collection.
As you probably know, this home in any other city in the northeast would command a price tag in excess of $3 million. That’s what I see when I visit my daughter in Northern New Jersey, only they lack the acreage there for that price. Thank goodness for affordable Syracuse real estate. It has allowed me to live like royalty in my hidden treasure on the hill.

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