Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (MArch)




Joseph Silsbee, Syracuse Architecture, Local Architects

Subject Categories

Architecture | Historic Preservation and Conservation | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


Silsbee’s name inevitably is associated with Frank Lloyd Wright and the other Prairie School architects who acquired their training in his Chicago office in the late 1880’s. Because of Silsbee’s well-known influence on mid-western architecture the focus of attention has been his mature work. Before he moved to Chicago, Silsbee practiced architecture in Syracuse, New York for a decade. Study of this early work extends our knowledge of Silsbee’s oeuvre and informs our understanding of his later architecture.

Silsbee was one of a new generation of thoroughly educated, professionally trained architects in late nineteenth century America. His High Victorian architectural ideals were tempered by innate ability and by the newly emergent interest in America’s vernacular, colonial heritage. Early in his career he produced a body of commercial work in downtown Syracuse which continues to play a significant role in defining its urban character. He went on to design churches, houses, resorts and institutional buildings in a variety of styles. Most of his work has been demolished; but old photographs and documentation in newspapers and the architectural press demonstrate a chronological development that parallels changes in American architectural theory. Behind Silsbee’s eclecticism are a continuity of expression and a clarity of form which raise his work well above the level of the average architect in the last quarter of nineteenth century America.


Open Access