Revealed: The history behind “Westcott Nation.”

Kate Monohan 06/06/09More articles
Before heading to the Westcott Art Trail to view some local art, one might wonder about the origins of the cultural hub that is the “Westcott Nation.”
Larry Hoyt, a proud member of the “Westcott Nation,” and host of WAER-FM folk radio show “Common Threads” spoke to roughly 30 members of the Westcott community at the Petit Library on Thursday, June 4. Hoyt discussed the history of the Westcott community as well as his new photography book entitled, “The Westcott Nation.”

According to Hoyt, the term “Westcott Nation” is thought to originate from former Mayor Carl Mellor in a conversation he had at the Westcott Café in 1972. This phrase became the colloquial term to describe the arts-rich, politically active community surrounding Westcott Street thereafter.

“Tonight is sort of a precursor of a project I’m working on,” Hoyt said.

Planning to release another book called, “The Westcott Nation, Then and Now,” Hoyt discussed how the Westcott community has evolved over the years.
He showed 19th century photos and used research from the Onondaga Historical Association in his discussion. This included scenes of the familiar Euclid and South Crouse Avenues, Thornden Park, the Erie Canal (now Erie Boulevard) and several others from the 1860s and 1870s. These old photos provided a contrast to the current look of the neighborhood and showed how the focus of his next book would be one that drew comparisons of yesteryear.
From the Erie Canal, to the hub for alternative rock and hippies in the 1960s, to a more moderately liberal artsy neighborhood today, Westcott has certainly undergone massive changes over the last 150 years.

Hoyt engaged the audience (many of whom were picture-snapping members of the Syracuse Photography Meetup Group), asking questions about the historical origins of Syracuse and the Westcott neighborhood, in particular, providing more of a discussion than a lecture.

He said that he doesn’t like having all his work stored somewhere on his computer and saw publishing his first book as a way to show his work to the public. He wanted to capture photos of the “Westcott Nation” that maybe even longtime residents hadn’t seen before.

By taking a unique angle he felt that his book would have an audience in members of the Westcott community. Despite the fact that it was easy for him to publish the book, he did say that the costs were high, and with about 1,000 copies in print, the limited edition sells for $70. It contains 40 pages of 81 photos of the Westcott neighborhood, including scenes such as the Westcott Street Cultural Fair and various scenic and urban landscapes. Hoyt also performed a folk song he wrote in 1985 called “The Westcott Blues.”

“The Westcott Nation is located in Syracuse, NY—and any other place where people seek freedom, justice, equality, culture and a good slice of pizza.” This quote is displayed on the back of Hoyt’s book “The Westcott Nation.”

From the looks of his photos, Westcott has the same openness and cultural flair today.

“If you want to do something, you can do it in the Westcott neighborhood,” Hoyt said.

The Petit Library displayed 23 prints from Hoyt’s book Thursday evening. To view some of Larry’s photos and get information on purchasing his book online, visit his photography blog at newfolkfotos.blogspot.com.

TAGS: common threads,westcott nation,su,syracuse,Larry hoyt,petit library
EDITION: The Eagle

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