Ground Broken 50 Years Ago on Construction of OCC Campus

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Ground Broken 50 Years Ago on Construction of OCC Campus


By: Carrie Coviello


On October 25, 1968, a ground-breaking ceremony was held on to mark the beginning of construction of the OCC campus on Onondaga Hill. Did you know that the land that OCC now stands on was not originally where the College was located? Or that there was controversy on the location of where to build the campus?


When the college first opened in 1962, classes were held in Midtown Plaza (the Syracuse Center of Excellence now occupies that land) in downtown Syracuse. The College quickly outgrew the space leased there and the College trustees quickly sought a permanent home for the college campus.  Looking at Onondaga County properties, they liked the Onondaga Hill property known as the County Farm. However, other town officials within the county sought to have the college in their town and Syracuse Mayor William Walsh wanted the college to remain downtown. After much discussion between local government officials, the Onondaga County Farm site was chosen in 1966.


While we all know how beautiful the campus is, building on the hilly land presented problems. There was a 130-foot difference in elevation between the highest part of the property and the lowest. The hillside grades ranged from 8% to 15% (the steepest road grades today are usually only 7%). The grade was accommodated by designing winding roads. The design of buildings with two or three ground-level entries was another way to deal with the variation in elevation on the site.


The most problematic part of the property was the gorge running through the middle of the campus site. The architects originally designed three bridges to cross Furnace Brook Gorge. Two bridges would be part of the loop road and one pedestrian bridge would be built in the middle of campus. However the cost of the bridges was $300,000 (over $2 million in today’s dollars). The prohibitive cost caused Onondaga County to have its own workers build a central bridge for $170,000.


On October 25, 1968, a groundbreaking ceremony was held, marking the beginning of construction. The first building completed, the Service and Maintenance would open 2 years later in 1970.