Clinton Square

Clinton Square, an overall view looking east from South Clinton Street. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, restored in 2001, is seen at far left.

Clinton Square is named for DeWitt Clinton, three-term mayor of New York City, two-term governor of New York State, and a leading figure in the creation of the Erie Canal. Downtown Syracuse’s central square, it is rich in history. Among many other things, it is the site of one of the first abolitionist "mob actions" in the North to free an imprisoned fugitive slave. It is also the spot where a 15-year-old L. Frank Baum may have witnessed a hot-air balloon ascension. Whether the teenaged Baum saw the balloon for himself or merely heard about it, Baum scholars suspect that this event inspired the scene of the Wizard’s departure from Oz by balloon in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Clinton Square began in 1825 at the junction of the Erie Canal, New York State’s early turnpike system, and the road to America’s largest salt works. In 1910 it was repurposed into a public square with the dedication of a Civil War monument. In 1924 the downtown section of the Canal was filled in and converted to a boulevard. Finally in 2001 it was redesigned and rededicated as an integrated civic landscape.