Why Is It Called Mattydale?
Revised May 25, 2013
The popular story is that old grandfatherly Frank Matty “founded” Mattydale. As cozy, comfortable and familiar as that story sounds, it is far from what actually happened. The rapid residential growth of the 1920s saw Mattydale School become the largest rural school in the nation and its growth was ushered in via some tempestuous school board meetings. With the Depression of the 1930s the growth ended, the political battles subsided and Frank was treated as a senior statesman whose annual birthday interviews in the Syracuse papers polished his legacy. Stripping away some of that polish allows a closer look at the real Frank Matty and what he was actually doing.
Frank Matty’s first purchase of land in the town of Salina took place in the summer of 1900 when he bought the Zimmer farm at a foreclosure sale. Around 1882 it is believed that Silas Zimmer purchased the old Adams farm on the northeast corner of the old Cicero Plank road and Malloy Road. By December 1900 Matty was having a ½ mile track built on his new farm, for his stable of race horses. In 1903 he added to his holdings by purchasing Benjamin Baum’s old Spring Farm from the Crouse family. It was located on the west side of the Plank Road, starting at the northern boundary of the Action Skate & Sport, up to the Northern Lights traffic circle and from the Plank Road to Bear Trap Creek. Matty was raising hogs on both properties but when his supply of free garbage from the city was cut off he sold the Spring Farm to Peter Michels in December 1905. Matty probably set up private garbage hauling contracts with some of the hotels in the city as there is evidence his employees were hauling garbage from the city to his Salina farm in 1906.
Frank continued to live in the city and went back into the livery business in early 1907, just prior to giving up his saloon, called the Alderman’s Cafe. After losing the mayoral election in 1907 Frank was still active in city politics but he didn’t run for office in the city again. The advent of the automobile and the trolley caused the fortunes of the livery business to decline. After an accident in December 1908, that injured his left arm, and the doctor and hospital bills that followed, Matty’s finances were in decline. By 1913 he had moved his livery operation from the back of the Manhattan Hotel to the 800 block of Wolf Street and moved his residence to the Salina farm. In March 1915 Frank Matty filed for bankruptcy in Utica, NY. At some point prior to the bankruptcy Matty had placed the Salina farm in the name of his then housekeeper, Minnie Mansfield. By 1923 Minnie had become his third wife and one can only speculate, but if Minnie was as sharp as Frank, marrying her was probably the price she charged Frank to regain ownership of the farm.
In 1922 Frank Matty donated land for the new school in Salina School District No. 3 and opened part of his farm for residential development. Since the new school would technically be located within what would later be Matty’s residential development, it could correctly be described as the school in Mattydale. From there it soon became Mattydale School.
At the end of 1922, Matty had not yet directed all his energy into the developing politics of this growing community. In fact as a “silent” partner, with two other investors, they proposed to the city of Syracuse the construction of a huge pig farm to deal with all the city’s garbage. This was some what reminiscent of twenty years before when Frank was getting free city garbage to run his hog business. Now he wanted to charge the city for the privilege of taking all their garbage. The city passed on the offer, but had they awarded the city garbage contract to Matty and his partners, the new school would have been surrounded on at least two sides by a hog farm / city dump. This was a real nice way to “found” a community, but somehow this event didn’t make it into Frank’s memoirs. After losing the garbage bid Frank turned to his residential development called Mattydale and dove into small time District No. 3 politics with his big city bag of political tricks.
The area never had a proper name before the residential development began in the 1920s. It had been variously described as “just over the city line,” “out on the Cicero Plank Road,” “right near the Skiff farm,” “just past the Old Rural Inn” or as Helen Burnham so quaintly put it, “Trolley Stops 2, 3 and 4.” By not appending a word such as Farms, Tract or Villas to the name of his property, but by simply giving it the one word name of Mattydale, Frank Matty, either knowingly or unknowingly, was able to have the whole place effectively named after him. For real estate marketing purposes this became a convenient label for that area “just past the city line.” Matty’s property was centrally located with new developments on all sides.
Having the whole area named after him was an honor that Matty’s many new found political opponents, in the Salina School District No. 3, would have never willingly bestowed upon him. After all, Matty was a newcomer who hadn’t resided on his farm until 1913. Several of the older families had been farming that portion of the town of Salina for three generations. With the exception of Malloy, Wright, Kirsch and Matty, the other farmers sold their property and left. Malloy never sold or developed his property and it was ultimately bought by the government in 1942 for part of the World War II Air Base. Wright and Kirsch were still actively running their now smaller dairy farms, but Matty was retired and he was a former politician who had always loved seeing his name in the paper. In his memoirs he describes his scrapbooks of newspaper clippings as being too heavy for one man to carry.
For a while, during the mid to late 1920s, the different developments maintained their individual identities and even fielded athletic teams that competed among themselves. At one time during this period the Garden City development had their own Volunteer Fire Department. As the developments filled up, the gaps between them disappeared and their individual identities began to fade. Today, some of the development names live on as street names such as Garden City, Richfield, Wright, Northwood and Kirsch.
The one exception was Hindale. This development was opened to the public in 1920 as Hinsdale Farms and it was on the former farmland of Perry Hinsdell. It is located adjacent to Mattydale on the north, consisting of Hinsdale, Malden and Campbell roads. It still has its own Volunteer Fire Department. There is a sign in the median of US Route 11 that proclaims “Hinsdale.” Though an unincorporated hamlet, as is Mattydale, Hinsdale has somehow maintained its separate identity over the years.
So, why is it called Mattydale? The name was never officially adopted. With the beginning of the development of the area various development names existed simultaneously. Only Mattydale and Hinsdale have survived up to the present day. Matty was a magnet for getting his name in the papers and although Perry Hinsdell was a bit of a character himself, he had died in 1906 and wasn’t around to promote the development on his land.
The name Mattydale sounded more like the name of a village than a residential development and the area desperately needed a label. The real estate ads of the time began using Mattydale as the reference point for the other developments. The "Local News" sections of the Syracuse papers began using Mattydale as a label for all the developments in the area.
In the end, it was probably the headlines generated by the riotous school board meetings and elections, held in Matty’s old double barn and later in the school, that was located within his development, that secured the name of Mattydale and its dominance over Hinsdale, in the mind of the public.