The Barnes-Hiscock Mansion, on James Street in Syracuse, is one of Syracuse’s architectural landmarks. This lower section of James Street once housed an astounding row of grand mansions. Beginning in the 1840s and continuing into the early 20th century, more than a dozen enormous mansions were built lining the street. First built in 1853 and subsequently altered in the 1870s and again in the 1910s, the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion is the only house remaining from the Syracuse’s 19th century Mansion Row. Now owned and operated by the George and Rebecca Barnes Foundation, it rents office space to the Preservation Association of Central NY.
George Barnes, who was born in England, was an attorney who became involved early on with the development of the New York Central Railroad. Well on his way to making his fortune and newly married to Rebecca Heermans, he built the first version of this house in 1853. Located on a very prominent hill overlooking what was then the new City of Syracuse, it was originally Italianate in style. Among their various interests, George and Rebecca Barnes were very active in the anti-slavery movement of the 1850s, with Syracuse being a hot-bed of abolitionist activity. This house played an important role in the Underground Railroad and in the anti-slavery movement in general.
The house has been altered several times during its history, in part due to new ownership. Frank Hiscock purchased the house in 1882. Hiscock was a prominent attorney in Syracuse and in New York State, serving on the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals.
The prominent Syracuse architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee made the first alterations in the 1870s and 1880s. Evamaria Hardin, in her AIA Guide to Downtown and Historic Neighborhoods (Onondaga Historical Association/Syracuse University Press, 1993), provides a brief summary of the building’s alterations, including added bays, dormers, porches, and a porte-cochere in 1878, a remodeled dining room in 1882, and finally, in 1892, the addition of the third floor and the creation of the modern Georgian Revival facade with the famous Corinthian columns.
For much of the late 20th century, it was owned by the Corinthian Club, a private women’s club. In 2009, the Corinthian Club voted to donate the house to the Barnes Foundation, which was formed in 2005 to maintain the mansion.