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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | July 11, 2017

Cheryl-Anne SturkenIn her heyday, the historic Hotel Syracuse in New York hosted luminaries such as Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Jimmy Carter. Then came 2004, and this golden beauty, which had dazzled so many guests with her architectural grandeur since opening in 1924, shut her doors for 12 long years.

"When the hotel closed, it left a big hole in this community," says Scott Becque, director of sales and marketing. "Eventually, people just forgot about it. We had to overcome that lasting image of a downtrodden hotel. Now, they can't stop talking about it."

Grand Ballroom, Marriott Syracuse DowntownWhat they are talking about is the transformation of this landmark gem into the 261-room Marriott Syracuse Downtown, which now includes a 14,200-square-foot IACC-approved conference center, the first in Central New York. The two-year, $76 million renovation pared down the hotel's guest-room count by more than half and exquisitely restored its 41,000 square feet of meeting and event spaces, including the nearly 6,000-square-foot grand ballroom, which features two-story windows, original crystal chandeliers and a hand-painted ceiling.

It was, says Becque, a marrying of meticulous restoration and the very latest in modern amenities. "Every time I do a site inspection, people are so surprised," he notes. "They can't believe Syracuse gave birth to this hotel. They just don't make them like this anymore." In fact, Becque eagerly relocated to Syracuse from New Jersey to take the DOSM position at the property, which also is a member of Historic Hotels of America.

The Marriott Syracuse Downtown's opening last August represents more than the rebirth of an important architectural landmark, however. For one thing, Syracuse, which in 1841 hosted the first New York State Fair, once again has an official anchor hotel for its Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center, one block away. And the hotel, albeit under a new name, has returned to playing a vital role in the local community, from hosting legacy weddings to having the local historical association conduct twice-weekly on-site historical tours.

"This hotel was built as a community hotel, and we are continuing that tradition," says Becque. "One of the traditions we have continued is donating a percentage of our profits back to local charity every month. It's really gratifying, because our employees know management is personally invested in their community."