431 East Fayette Street Suite 100 Syracuse, NY 13202 Tel: 315.422.9538

ATTENTION: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are canceling all external organizations’ meetings and events at the CNY Philanthropy Center until August 31, at which time we will reassess based on the most current information. Contact us for more information. 

History of our Building

The University Club building at 431 East Fayette Street was built in 1917 as the home for the University Club of Syracuse. The building cost close to $100,000 to complete. Designed by architectural firm Taylor & Banta, the new Georgian clubhouse became a distinguished landmark in the Fayette Park area.

Officially occupied on October 1, 1917, the building featured a lush bar, dining room, ballroom, library and twenty comfortable dormitory rooms that could be used by businessmen visiting Syracuse. 

Tucked between the Hayden Hotel and the Wolcott Restaurant & Tea Room, the pillared and gracious Georgian Revival building provided members with a new headquarters to meet in comfortable privacy. The Club was wildly popular, maintaining a waiting list with hundreds of applicants. 

In November 1930, construction began on a three-story addition to the clubhouse that cost $30,000. The new addition, designed by A.L. Brockway, housed handball and squash courts, a gymnasium, steam room, locker room, rub room and six additional dormitories. The private rooms were lavishly decorated with fox-hunt paintings and well-maintained Stickley Furniture. 

About the University Club 

The University Club of Syracuse was founded in 1899 by Dr. John Van Duyn, the only American surgeon to serve behind the front lines in both the Civil War and World War I. He formed the club to provide a meeting place for the college educated men of the city and to create a forum for discussing a spectrum of current issues. 

Over the years, the University Club morphed into a private social society and meeting place where the area's elite conducted business, socialized and shared common interests. Members discussed matters from business to politics, knowing that their conversations would never go beyond the front door. 

Those wishing to join had to be sponsored by one member, seconded by another and acquainted with three other members. Activities included everything from lectures by industry leaders and college chancellors to concerts, big-band dances and stag parties. 

The Club drew its share of celebrity visitors over the years including Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who held press conferences in the club ballroom, and Woodrow Wilson. Richard Nixon once made a stop at the clubhouse for lunch during his unsuccessful 1960 presidential campaign. 

For its entire history an all-male social club, the University Club did not change its membership requirements until after its 80-year anniversary. Given that many members conducted business at the club, women thought it important to gain access to the entire facility. In 1980, women were invited to join the club as members for the first time. 

Facing financial troubles in 1986, the Club reluctantly decided to leave its home on East Fayette in favor of a less-expensive, modern space in the Atrium on Clinton Square. Club leaders saw the sale as a means to escape debts while generating new interest. 

The Club lost almost 400 members when it left its clubhouse for new space in Clinton Square. Total debts of over $250,000 finally forced the Club to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1990. The University Club of Syracuse officially dissolved on April 2, 1990. 

Green & Seifter purchased the building in May 1986. The firm intended to renovate the space and move its offices there. Eighteen months later, Green & Seifter put the building back up on the market deciding instead to renew its lease at One Lincoln Center. 

Skaneateles Savings Bank purchased the building in December 1987. The first floor was converted into a full-service bank. The location was chosen to better serve the bank's commercial customers in the downtown area as well as to establish a presence in the city's banking district. Renovations of the building included the construction of a drive-up window, elevator and handicap accessibility. After renovations were complete, Skaneateles Savings Bank occupied half of the building's space and rented the rest to commercial clients. Most of the historic elements that had characterized the University Club s dining and social rooms were removed during renovation to create new commercial space. The new branch was ready to open for business in November 1988. 

In January 1999, Skaneateles Savings Bank was acquired by BSB Bank & Trust. The Fayette Street branch continued business under that name. 

BSB renovated much of the building to fit its needs while housed there. In 2001, remodeling contractor McClurg Associates completed an $82,000 project to rebuild the building's facade and porch while staying in character with the building. In April 2003, BSB announced it had spent $1.3 million in equipment and renovations of the building's basement. This space would be used as a check processing and call center. The basement had at one time housed a squash court and a half basketball court. 

At the end of 2003, Partners Trust Bank acquired BSB Bank & Trust. The Fayette Street branch and check processing center continued business under the new name. 

In December 2007, M&T Bank took ownership of the building through its purchase of Partners Trust Bank. M&T consolidated many of its Onondaga County branches and soon put the University Club building up for sale. M&T Bank sold the building to the Community Foundation on March 31, 2009.

"Originally designed to blend in with the mansions surrounding Fayette Park, most of which are gone, the building is now the third oldest structure on the Park after Park Central Presbyterian and the Hamilton White House. Though it was a members only establishment, the University Club was the site of many community gatherings, so it is particularly appropriate that it will now house a Foundation, which has its own history of supporting our community in so many important and essential ways. The renovation and restoration of this architecturally beautiful local landmark by the CNY Community Foundation is, indeed, another worthy contribution by this great organization to our city and to our local history." 
- Gregg A. Tripoli, Executive Director of Onondaga Historical Association