Matty's Barn Roof Collapse
Frank Matty died on February 10, 1939. After a heavy snow on March 19, 1940, a little over a year after his passing, the roof of his double barn collapsed. Matty had purchased the former Zimmer farm in June 1900, at a foreclosure sale. In September 1895 the Zimmer’s 3-story barn and carriage house had burned to the ground. Either the widow, Mrs. Zimmer, built the new double barn or Matty built it after he bought the property. Either way the barn was only 40 to 45 years old at the time of the roof collapse.
The barn was built along a north-south line, with the front of the barn facing the Cicero Plank Road. The north end of the barn was used for Matty’s stable of race horses and the south end, known as the dance hall or Matty’s Hall, was used for community social events, school district meetings and elections. The school related meetings, in the early to mid 20s, were very unruly and State Troopers were always on hand to keep order. This large double barn was an integral part of Matty’s social and political activities in Mattydale.
Before moving to his farm, Matty had sold off his stable of horses that were sometimes kept in the north end of the barn. Years later, in 1930, Matty invited the Volunteer Fire Department to make their home in this end of his barn. They were still occupying that end of the barn at the time of the roof collapse. After the collapse they took over the dance hall in the south end of the barn. The attorney for the Matty estate had reported that the underwriters would not insure the old barn and that its fate, in the not too distant future, was demolition. Nevertheless the fire department continued to occupy the barn while the politics of building their new home played out.
When Frank Matty was an Alderman in the city of Syracuse he held court at his Alderman’s Café, on the southeast corner of E. Fayette and S. Warren St. He and the other Alderman ran the city from the 3rd floor of City Hall where the Common Council held their meetings. In 1914 Frank left the city, after having been out of office since the end of 1907, and took up residence on his Salina farm. This large double barn became his “office” and “café”. From here he could chair the district meetings and supervise elections that still utilized a cardboard box to hold the ballots, just like his early days in politics back in the old 3rd Ward. However, the “Mayor of Mattydale” was now gone and residential development was encroaching on his old barn from all sides. Without Frank Matty’s strong personality and energy radiating from that barn it was only a matter of time before it collapsed.
The picture on the left was pulled off the Internet years ago and the one on the right came from Helen Burnham’s book and was provided to her by Roger Baker. Roger’s father, Bud Baker, had lived on Matty Ave and was a Fire Chief of the Mattydale Voluntary Fire Department. When I originally saw these pictures I thought they were just random pictures of Matty’s barn, they were also the only pictures of the barn I had ever found. Under closer examination I noticed some more detail. The left photo, of the front of the barn, was a bit under exposed and the snow on the roof blended into the sky. By adjusting the brightness and the contrast it was possible to make out the missing part of the roof that had resulted from the collapse. This picture was taken from Brewerton Road, probably shortly after the collapse on March 19, 1940. The picture on the right, taken from the back of the barn, when blown up a little, clearly shows that the major portion of the roof collapse had taken place on the rear side of the barn. The shape of the missing section of the front part of the roof, as seen in the right hand picture, matches the shape of the missing section of the front of the barn, as seen in the picture on the left. Together these pictures have managed to capture the full extend of the damage from the collapsing roof.
Somehow it just seems right that the vote on the firehouse referendum was held in Matty’s old Hall. Since the fire department had moved into the hall after the collapse, the equipment had to be temporarily moved out of the hall so that the voters could fit in. Following the traditions of the past there were arguments about who was eligible to vote and who was not. Two State Troopers from North Syracuse showed up, just like in the old days of Frank Matty, but their services weren’t needed on this occasion.