Volunteers help to restore a 90-year-old piece of Onondaga Lake history (photos) – syracuse.com

– National Grid employees volunteered on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, to restore the steps at Jesuit Landing on the eastern shore of Onondaga Lake as part of their annual Week of Service. Provided by National GridProvided by National Grid
A bit of Onondaga Lake history has been restored this week, thanks to some help from volunteers.
The stone stairs at Jesuit Landing, near the Butterfly Garden of Hope on Onondaga Lake Parkway, once brought visitors down to the beach on the eastern shore of the lake but they had all but disappeared beneath a tangle of overgrown brush and litter.
On Tuesday, 40 National Grid volunteers unearthed the stairs once more as part of the company’s Project C Week of Service.
The stairs date back to the Great Depression.
– Stairs at the Jesuit Landing on the eastern shore of Onondaga Lake took swimmers right down to the beach. Part of the Schuelke Collection at the Liverpool Public LibraryPart of the Schuelke Collection from the Liverpool Public Library
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt became New York State Governor in 1929, he established the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA) which provided support to the unemployed. It was used to create the Onondaga County Emergency Work Bureau, a work program which put able-bodied individuals to work on state projects.
When Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, TERA would serve as an inspiration for the unemployment projects of The New Deal.
Locally, one of the most ambitious projects was the beautification and restoration along the eastern shoreline of Onondaga Lake.
Projects included the establishment of the Onondaga Lake Parkway, Onondaga Lake Park, the Salt Museum, the French Fort, and more.
Civic leaders saw the opportunity to transform the banks of Onondaga from an unsightly eyesore to a picturesque destination.
The stairs at the Jesuit Landing on the eastern shore of Onondaga Lake took swimmers right down to the beach.Part of the Schuelke Collection from the Liverpool Public Library
“They see ahead to the time when Onondaga Lake will be the pilgrimage for thousands of tourists annually; when 10,000 children will be afforded an opportunity to romp on its beaches, and when the lake will once more be transformed from an ugly cesspool of pollution to crystal-clear, sparkling waters,” the “Syracuse American” reported on Oct. 12, 1930.
The “Syracuse Herald” called it “one of the biggest lake reclamation projects anywhere in the United States.”
Part of this were the stone stairs at Jesuit Landing, which takes its name from the Jesuit missionaries from Quebec who first arrived in the area, which brought swimmers down to the water from across what was once known as Memorial Drive.
The stairs would eventually become lost to time.
– This is how the stairs looked before the work started. Provided by National GridProvided by National Grid
Generations of industrial pollution would eventually lead government officials to prohibit swimming and consumption of fish from the lake, rising water levels overtook the beach, and the overgrowth of lake grass, trees and other plant life would hide the stairs for decades.
In 2018, two history enthusiasts located and partially uncovered the steps and reported their findings to Onondaga County Parks officials.
National Grid Customer and Community Engagement Manager Travis Glazier, who previously directed the county’s office of the environment, knew of the steps from his work on the Onondaga Lake cleanup project and brought the idea for a larger cleanup to organizers of the company’s week of service this year.
This year marks the third anniversary of National Grid’s “Project C Week of Service,” and was dedicated to service projects so that even more employees could participate.
“Project C codifies the commitment we have to all of the communities in New York state where we deliver energy,” said Alberto Bianchetti, regional director of customer and community engagement. “It’s employee-driven and employee-powered, and the benefits are felt by everyone who lives here.”
– National Grid employees volunteered on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, to restore the steps at Jesuit Landing on the eastern shore of Onondaga Lake as part of their annual Week of Service. Provided by National GridProvided by National Grid
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This feature is a part of CNY Nostalgia, a section on syracuse.com. Send your ideas and curiosities to Johnathan Croyle: Email | 315-416-3882.
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