While most people who drive the I-81 through Syracuse, New York are focussed on the gargantu-signs that foretell their arrival at the state’s largest shopping complex, I am fixated on another architectural curiosity: a decrepit Victorian house on top of an abandoned warehouse.
The neighbourhood is dicey and Husband is anxious to go from Point A to Point B, so I make the most of my 10 minute allotment. And it doesn’t take long. With no ‘higher ground’ – access to a neighbouring building or the factory itself – I know already that I will have to settle for a partial view.
Since 1895, the handsome red brick building has been home to the Moyer carriage and car factory, Porter-Cable Machine Co. and finally the Penfield Manufacturing Co., which closed in 2006. For years, rumours abounded about the house on top – alternatively home to a crazy hermit, a weather-watching station and the house of a woman who wouldn’t sell up. And like most rumours, they weren’t true. According to reporter Rick Moriarty at Syracuse.com, “the house was an architectural gimmick used to attract attention to the [original carriage and car factory] business.”
While details of the house were a carefully-guarded mystery protected since its inception, latest owner Yiorgos Kyriakopoulos welcomed Moriarty and a photographer in to see it for themselves. And the big reveal? The house is a shell protecting the motor that powers the freight elevator, a brilliant advertising sleight-of-hand.
Kyriakopoulos bought the house and abandoned building for $200,000USD in 2012 and hopes to turn it into a New York City-style loft development. As of March 2017, however, there appears to be little progress.
Here’s a rooftop drone tour from Anthony Casella.
Coincidentally, in 2016 the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City hosted its own variation of the Psycho house, a “sculpture” imagined by British artist Cornelia Parker. While she riffed on a painting by Edward Hopper and took cues from Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho set, she could have just as easily found inspiration in the Penfield mystery house.