Lebanese and Syrian Americans
Academics at Utica College

Lebanese and Syrian Americans

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Lebanese Coffee-House Woodcut "The Ah'we (Lebanese Coffee-House), 1944" from "East Utica, Wind of the Land," woodcut by Robert Cimbalo
Lebanese and Syrian immigrants came to the Utica area as early as the 1880s as part of peddling networks (linens and other dry goods) emanating from New York City and Boston, with permanent settlers documented from 1895. According to the Utica Saturday Globe, there were about 100 Syro-Lebanese by 1900, including some 40 listed as peddlers in two boarding houses of Lebanese dry goods merchants on Bleecker St. in East Utica. By 1920, there were approximately 2,500 immigrants from Lebanon and Syria (mostly from Lebanon and almost all Christian). Between the two World Wars, the Syro-Lebanese businessmen gravitated from dry goods to grocery stores, of which there were more than 70 of Syro-Lebanese ownership in the Utica area in 1940.

After World War II, aided by the G.I. Bill, there arose a large professional class (doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, etc.) among the Syro-Lebanese, which came to number about 150 by the year 2000. If one counts all those who have some portion of Lebanese or Syrian descent, there are approximately 5,000 in the Utica area. They have three ethnic churches: Maronite Catholic (St. Louis Gonzaga), Melkite Catholic (St. Basil's), and Syrian Orthodox (St. George's).

The local history of the Syro-Lebanese has been written by John Moses ("From Mount Lebanon to the Mohawk Valley") in the volume Ethnic Utica (Ethnic Heritage Studies Center, Utica College, 2nd ed. 2002, available by contacting the Ethnic Heritage Studies Center at 315-792-3001), and dramatized in the memoir Wind of the Land (Ethnic Heritage Studies Center, 1979, available from Syracuse University Press) by Eugene Paul Nassar.

More Information

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Juan A. Thomas, Ph.D.
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