This past summer, I was driving on Route 31 in Lakeport, NY when I saw a street sign that read “Syracuse Herald Avenue”, I was immediately intrigued. What I stumbled upon was what the Syracuse Herald considered the greatest deal ever made by a newspaper.
It was 1923, the Syracuse Herald had embarked on a campaign to increase subscription to their paper by offering a plot of land in a new development, Lake Oneida Beach, with a six month subscription. The company had purchased a tract of land 18 miles from the city on Lake Oneida. They laid out streets, built a clubhouse, pier, parks and summer homes. With your six month subscription, you had the opportunity to purchase a plot of 2000 square feet for just $58.50, $8.50 down and $2.50 a month. They advertised it as home to the best fishing in the country, an attractive summer resort that was offered the “best obtainable health conditions”. Interested individuals could visit the Syracuse Herald office on South Warren Street or venture to the lake via rail cars and motor busses organized by the paper at no charge to visit the grounds and secure a location with representatives who stayed from daylight until dark to take orders. Buyers had to purchase 2 lots in order to build and couldn’t buy more than five. With your purchase, the Syracuse Herald paid your taxes for one year and you received life membership in the Lake Oneida Beach Colony. The membership enabled any member to use the beach front property the paper had secured and gifted to the colony. The beach front property was accessible to all members and could not be built upon or purchased. They said this was not a “transitory project” but instead the building of a permanent summer colony fostered and furthered by the Syracuse Herald.
Reports show that over 2,700 lots were sold in just one month as the paper encouraged individuals to drive out and see the development for themselves. Many residents put up tents on their new land while others built bungalows and cottages. Due to the demand and the success of their campaign the paper purchased more land just east on the shore of the lake and opened a new tract with available lots, titled Lake Oneida Beach East. Lake Oneida Beach East offered similar amenities including a bathing house, pavilion, boardwalk and tennis courts. When the colony formally opened that summer for “Herald Colonists”, the paper hosted an event that included airplane rides from the city of Syracuse to Lake Oneida.
Today the colony feel continues at Lake Oneida Beach with some minor adjustments. Roads have been paved and you now need to own 6 lots in order to build new.Current residents, many tracing back to the original subscriptions, have maintained the beach front property, spanning 13 blocks, for all members to use for a small, newly implemented fee. Just down the road at Lake Oneida Beach East you can see more remnants of its historic past when you approach the colony and see Arthur Jenkins Road, named for the publisher of the Syracuse Herald at the time of the campaign.
Special thanks to Mary Brigandi-Murphy and Charlie Ciereck who welcomed me into their home to share their stories, memories and knowledge of Lake Oneida Beach.