Clinton Square, Syracuse NY | Officially Marked Monument
Clinton Square is named for DeWitt Clinton, three-term mayor of New York City, two-term governor of New York State, and a leading figure in the creation of the Erie Canal. Downtown Syracuse’s central square, it is rich in history. Among many other things, it is the site of one of the first abolitionist "mob actions" in the North to free an imprisoned fugitive slave. It is also the spot where a 15-year-old L. Frank Baum may have witnessed a hot-air balloon ascension. Whether the teenaged Baum saw the balloon for himself or merely heard about it, Baum scholars suspect that this event inspired the scene of the Wizard’s departure from Oz by balloon in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Clinton Square began in 1825 at the junction of the Erie Canal, New York State’s early turnpike system, and the road to America’s largest salt works. In 1910 it was repurposed into a public square with the dedication of a Civil War monument. In 1924 the downtown section of the Canal was filled in and converted to a boulevard. Finally in 2001 it was redesigned and rededicated as an integrated civic landscape.
This monument, added to Clinton Square
in 2001, celebrates the October 1,
1851, rescue of William "Jerry" Henry,
an escaped slave from Missouri. This
rescue was a nationally significant
victory for the abolitionist cause
and helped set a pattern of Northern
defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act. For
more details, see Jerry Rescue
Hundreds watched as Prof. C. C. Coe of Rome, New York, launched his hot-air balloon New World from Clinton Square as part of an 1871 balloon race. Note the Erie Canal, crossing the square from right to left. At this time L. Frank Baum was living in Syracuse, aged 15. If he was not among the onlookers, he surely heard of the celebrated event, memories of which may have inspired the hot-air balloon scene in The Wizard of Oz.