Syracuse history comes to life on Instagram

David Haas, creator of an Instagram account dubbed @syracusehistory, is dedicated to sharing the stories of historic buildings and interesting homes that Syracuse residents might not know about.

David Haas calls the city of Syracuse his home. It's where he grew up, it's where he bought his first house and it's where he finds the most interesting stories to share.

Haas is the creator of an Instagram account dubbed @syracusehistory, which is dedicated to sharing the stories of historic buildings and interesting homes that Syracuse residents might not even know about. The account, with a bio reading “History of Syracuse in photos!” has over 330 posts and nearly 9,000 followers.

Photo: Georgie Silvarole
David Haas runs an Instagram account that shares photos of Syracuse's history.

“The Instagram account — it combines two of my passions, the city and history,” Haas said. “I've always been into the city and I've always been into history.”

Each post typically features a shot of a home or building and includes a brief description of a purpose the structure served in the past, or the interesting people who lived in the building, Haas said. All of Haas’s photos are taken and color-corrected on his iPhone.

There's no real rhyme or reason to the homes he chooses to profile, he said. They just have to speak to him and be situated within the city limits.

The research that goes into each post can be time consuming and frustrating, Haas said. He spends an average of two hours per post at the library sorting through archived census reports and newspaper clippings to learn more about a house or the people who lived in it. Sometimes, he’ll take a photo of a building that’s highly visually appealing but can't post it because it lacks a compelling story, he said.

“Probably every other photo, every fourth photo, turns out boring. It won't excite people,” Haas said. “Sometimes it's frustrating, but any attention is good.”

Haas’s posts average 200–300 likes, and often are loaded with comments adding to the story behind the home in the photo. One post featured a Sears home at 1500 James Street — according to the post, in the early 1920s, anyone could order one of 370 different prefabricated homes from the catalog. The Magnolia, which still resides downtown, was constructed only seven known times and was the most expensive homes Sears offered, priced around $6,000. The post garnered 418 likes, and one comment left by @futuremrseno estimated the cost in 1922 to be equal to $84,942.14 in today's dollars.

Haas works full time as a nonprofit manager helping adults with disabilities, and doesn't make any profit curating the Syracuse History content, he said. As a person who stutters, Haas works to overcome his own “hidden handicap” each day.

“I spent a lot of years praying that I would not stutter anymore and that I would be fluent 100 percent of the time,” he said. “But that is not possible — and not good.”

Haas now presents speeches at schools on stuttering and how he has worked around his own disability, he said, estimating he gives at least four of that nature each year. He recently gave a TEDx Talk at Syracuse University titled “The Weight of My Words,” in which he described what it's like to be a person who stutters. He also works with children in speech therapy and said it’s important for kids to see an adult who struggles with the same speech disorder they do, who also lives a happy and whole life.

“It kind of touches my heart in a lot of ways,” Haas said. “I want to help them.”

On Instagram, Haas’s speech disorder is irrelevant. The stories he shares virtually open up a seamless gateway to communicate with his city and the people in it, he said.

“I sometimes think I can definitely express myself better in typed words than just speaking out loud to people, so it is like an outlet for me,” Haas said. “I see my Instagram account as a way to add value to the homes, the streets and the buildings of the city.”

Click images below to see #SyracuseHistory moments on Instagram

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