Syracuse ( or ) is a city in, and the county seat of, Onondaga County, New York, United States. It is the largest U.S. city with the name "Syracuse", and is the fifth most populous city in the state of New York. At the 2000 census, the city population was 147,306, and its metropolitan area had a population of 732,117. It is the economic and educational hub of Central New York, a region with over a million inhabitants. Syracuse is also well-provided with convention sites, with a downtown convention complex and, directly west of the city, the Empire Expo Center, which hosts the annual Great New York State Fair. Syracuse was named after the original Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian), a city on the eastern coast of the Italian island of Sicily.
The city has functioned as a major crossroads over the last two centuries, first between the Erie Canal and its branch canals, then of the railway network. Today, Syracuse is located at the intersection of Interstates 81 and 90, and its airport is the largest in the region. Syracuse is home to Syracuse University, a major research university, as well as several smaller colleges and professional schools. In 2010 Forbes rated Syracuse 4th in the top 10 places to raise a family.
The Syracuse area was first seen by Europeans when French missionaries came to the area in the 1600s. At the invitation of the Onondaga Nation, one of the five constituent members of the Iroquois confederacy, a group of Jesuit priests, soldiers, and coureurs des bois (including Pierre Esprit Radisson) set up a mission, known as Saint Marie Among the Iroquois, or Ste. Marie de Gannent aha, on the northeast shore of Onondaga Lake.
Jesuit missionaries visiting the Syracuse region in the mid 1600s reported salty brine springs around the southern end of "Salt Lake", known today as Onondaga Lake. The 1788 Treaty of Fort Stanwix, and the subsequent designation of the area by the state of New York as the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation provided the basis for commercial salt production from the late 1700s through the early 1900s; brine from wells that tapped into halite(common salt) beds in the Salina shale near Tully, New York, 15 miles south of the city were developed in the 19th century. It is the north flowing brine from Tully that is the source of salt for the "salty springs" found along the shoreline of Onondaga lake. The rapid development of this industry in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the nicknaming of Syracuse as "The Salt City".
The first Solvay Process Company plant in the United States, was erected on the southeastern shore of Onondaga lake in 1884 and the village was given the name Solvay, New York to commemorate its inventor, Ernest Solvay. In 1861, he developed the ammonia-soda process for the manufacture of soda ash (anhydrous sodium carbonate, a rare chemical called natrite, to distinguish it from natural natron of antiquity) from brine wells dug in the southern end of Tully valley (as a source of sodium chloride) and limestone (as a source of calcium carbonate). The process was an improvement over the earlier Leblanc process. The Syracuse Solvay plant was the incubator for a large chemical industry complex owned by Allied Signal in Syracuse, the result of which made Onondaga Lake the most polluted in the nation.
The salt industry declined after the Civil War, but a new manufacturing industry arose in its place.
Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, numerous businesses and stores were established, including the Franklin Automobile Company, which produced the first air-cooled engine in the world; the Century Motor Vehicle Company; and the Craftsman Workshops, the center of Gustav Stickley's handmade furniture empire.
The Geneva Medical College was founded in 1834. It is now known as Upstate Medical University, the most prestigious medical college in the Syracuse area, one of only four in the State University of New York system, and one of only five medical schools in the state north of New York City.
World War II sparked significant industrial expansion in the area: specialty steel, fasteners, custom machining. After the war, two of the Big Three automobile manufacturers (General Motors & Chrysler) had major operations in the area. Syracuse was headquarters for Carrier Corporation, Crouse-Hinds traffic signal manufacturing, and General Electric had its main television manufacturing plant at Electronics Parkway in Syracuse.
The manufacturing industry in Syracuse began to falter in the 1970s. Many small businesses failed during this time, which contributed to an already increasing unemployment rate. Rockwell International moved their factory outside New York state. General Electric moved its television manufacturing operations to Suffolk, Virginia and later to Singapore. The Carrier Corporation moved its headquarters out of Syracuse and outsourced manufacturing to Asian locations. Nevertheless, although city population has declined since 1950, the Syracuse metropolitan area population has remained fairly stable, even growing by 2.5 percent since 1970. While this growth rate is greater than much of Upstate New York, it is far below the national average during that period.