Syracuse – The rock throwers of Tipperary Hill

If you are passing through Syracuse in the state of New York, you should take a detour to the Irish neighborhood of Tipperary Hill. It will give you the opportunity to have an interesting anecdote to tell when you return home. Because in Tipperary Hill, you will see what is rather an incongruity in the North American road system: traffic lights that are upside-down.

Contrary to the usual norm (the red light above, the green light below, the yellow in the middle), the traffic lights at the corner of Tompkins and Milton streets have their green light located above the yellow and red lights. And this, for a political and historical reason.

The traffic lights of Tipperary Hill

At the end of the construction of the Erie Canal, many Irish workers settled in this neighborhood of Syracuse, which they named Tipperary (a tribute to the county of the same name in Ireland). The traffic lights were installed there in 1925. Even if residents of the neighborhood had been Americans for a few generations, the Irish resentment against the British dominance was still present. And some began to see in the traffic lights a symbol of this dominance. The red light (colour of the British) was located above the green light (colour of the Irish).

It was a good enough reason for neighborhood residents to vandalize the traffic lights. The red light became the target of rock throwers. As soon as it was replaced, it was vandalized again. The city eventually became tired of having to constantly replace the red light and accepted the proposal of a local resident to place the traffic lights upside-down so that the green light would now be at the top.

The rock throwers of Tipperary Hill
The statue paying tribute to the rock throwers

The state of New York, however, intervened and demanded that the city abide by the law and that the traffic lights be put back in the right direction. But this decision only increased the ardor of the rock throwers, who began to attack the red light again.

Finally, in 1928, when it was clear that the situation would not be resolved, the state agreed to have the traffic lights put upside-down. Since then, the green light has been on top of the red light. A small park at the intersection pays tribute to the rock throwers who have fervently (and with great precision) defended their patriotism.

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