Tipp Hill

About Tipp Hill

With a green-on-top traffic light, St. Patrick’s Church, and a pub on almost every block, there’s no mistaking Tipperary Hill, also known as Tipp Hill, as the city’s Irish neighborhood. This area makes up half of Syracuse's Far Westside neighborhood and delivers more than the occasional pint of green beer. It also serves as home to a robust Ukrainian population, dedicated entrepreneurs, families with generations of ties to the neighborhood, and newcomers trying to set down their own roots.

Main Character

The Community Organizer

By Audrey Morgan

A coach, a father figure, and a part-time bartender, Jeff Costello embodies the community spirit of Tipp Hill.

Jeff Costello stands behind the bar, serving  the 1 p.m. crowd on a Monday at George O’Dea’s, one of 11 pubs that dot Tipperary Hill. Costello retired in October 2016 from his 31-year-stint at the U.S. Postal Service in sales, and in the past year, he’s picked up a couple shifts at the bar owned by one of his childhood friends, Jerry “Bones” Roesch. A customer asks about the history of the bar, and in case she has more questions, Costello writes down his number on a piece of paper, even though the owner, Roesch, sits only two seats down the bar .

“You would give your number instead of mine,” Roesch teases.

Indeed, he would. Costello, 57, grew up in Tipp Hill, and even though he resides in Geddes, everyone knows his face, which perpetually features a boyish grin. His small but muscular build lends him a scrappiness that benefits the work he does in the neighborhood —  coaching and organizing groups like the Tipp Hill Athletic Association, the Leprechaun League, and Project Children. These positions earned him a host of honors, including a year-long reign as Co-Grand Marshal of Green Beer Sunday in 2015, alongside Roesch.  

Costello credits his childhood coaches for the inspiration to start the Leprechaun League, a youth basketball program, in 1992, which he also did with Roesch. Although the school they attended, St. Pat’s, was converted into an apartment complex, they convinced the owners to maintain the gymnasium so the kids kept a place to gather and play. They use the building October through March for youth programs, including the Leprechaun League, which this year drew 86 participants.

Around the same time they started the league, Roesch conceived the idea for the Tipp Hill Athletic Association, which is, in fact, not about sports. The real goal: to establish a sense of community through volunteer work, and put men who may not normally hang out in the same room. Members include lawyers, construction workers, bar owners. They’ve raised thousands of dollars for local families undergoing challenges such as cancer and charities through events like the Saint Patrick’s Day Festival in Tipp Hill and the Irish Fest downtown.

Costello goes by the moniker Coz, given to him by Tipp Hill residents. “We’re famous for nicknames,” Costello explains.  His is an offshoot of his older brother Jim’s, who is known as Cosi.  Roesch, who lived on the same block as Costello, received his nickname, “Bones,” from a basketball coach, inspired by his ribs, which poked out during games of Shirts and Skins. Then there’s Costello’s  younger brother, Jay, the Shamrocker — named for his boxing prowess.

Coz describes himself as a fun-loving kid. The eldest of his two sisters, Marilyn McNamara, recalls a story her dad loved to tell. She overdrew a bath in their house on the intersection of Bryant Avenue and Burnet Park Drive, causing a leak into the downstairs living room. Three-year-old Costello turned the household catastrophe into a party, dancing under the drops of water and giddily singing that the roof was raining on his head. “From the time he was little, he always had this brightness about him,” McNamara says.

In fact, most of Costello’s stories about growing up in Tipp Hill center around family. Days spent playing games in Burnet Park that lasted from morning till nightfall defined the summers. “I never knew anything other than how great life was,” Costello recalls. He cites a collage of him and his three brothers that features all of them in sixth grade at different times and all wearing the same shirt, a hand-me-down. “That was the first time I realized we didn’t have a lot,” he says.

Costello’s father worked for the postal service; his mother, whose parents hailed from County Tipperary, stayed at home before finding a job as a receptionist at a community hospital. He graduated from Bishop Blood High School, which became the nexus of all the now-defunct Irish-Catholic schools (St. Bridget’s, St. Lucy’s, St. Patrick’s). But it was at St. Patrick’s that he met his wife, Colleen, a speech therapist—in kindergarten.

They dated briefly in high school, but remained friends. Then, the summer before his freshman year at SUNY Cortland, Jeff asked his friend, Scott Mulholland, to approach a group of girls at a local bar and inquire the name of a blonde with her back turned to them. That blonde was Colleen. They married soon after college and had one son Justin, 33. And, before he worked for the Postal Service, Costello worked several jobs, taking bartending shifts when he could, to put Colleen through grad school at S.U.

These days, Costello can be found at the bar even when he’s not working. On a Saturday afternoon in early March, O’Dea’s draws onlookers from the annual Shamrock Run, as well as orange-decked patrons, who later will watch the SU basketball game. In anticipation of Costello joining them, Roesch and another friend, Pat O’Neill (Patty O for short) talk about their relationship with their friend over drinks (Bud Light for Roesch, plain cranberry juice for O’Neill). When asked about their favorite memories of Costello, the two friends quickly shift into a stand-up routine.

“Don’t have any,” Roesch deadpans.

“I hate the guy,” O’Neill chimes in.

The reality of their friendship also offers some comedic elements. Roesch serves as the perfect foil to Costello’s eternal optimism. “I’m a strict sort of pain in the ass. I’ve got a businessman mentality,” Roesch says. “I’m half German, so I’m pissed off at the world and too drunk to do anything about it.” That tightly wound world view often conflicts with Costello’s more haphazard approach to life. “He does so many goofy things,” Roesch says of Costello.

He always loses his keys, for instance. There’s the time he locked them in his car when it was still running after he’d taken the day off to play golf. Or, the time he wore the wrong jacket, which inevitably held the wrong pair of keys. Just this past year and to combat this perpetual problem, Costello asked Roesch to carry an extra set of keys in case he lost his. When Costello inevitably did lose his keys, they showed up a few weeks later. Randy Hoos, another local bar owner, plunged his toilet, and inside were Costello’s keys.

Just as the toilet story comes to an end, in walks its main character. “There’s the guy,” O’Neill calls out as Costello  flits across the main room of O’Dea’s. “The GOAT,” Costello mouths with a grin. In reference to the youthful moniker “Greatest of All Time,” O’Neill’s son crowned them “the three GOATs” of Tipp Hill when they took a recent trip to Florida to visit Roesch’s brother-in-law on Valentine’s Day. The three took a helicopter ride and spent their days fishing and drinking. “Freaking rocked,” O’Neill adds.  

But not all the stories that feature Costello highlight hilarity. Dennis Heaphy, a historian and filmmaker whose yard neighbored Costello’s as a child, remembers a more philosophical side. In fact, Heaphy and Costello used to meet at the corner of the block to discuss philosophy. “It’s not like we were quoting Nietzsche,” he says. But they had formed their own worldviews, discussing topics that weren’t a “common conversation” on Tipp Hill.

Then employed by the Postal Service, Jeff would send him collectible stamps inside an envelope addressed to “Dennis Heaphy, Street Corner Philosopher.” Eventually, that thoughtfulness found a local outlet, and the two combined their talents to videotape older residents of Tipp Hill with Dennis behind the camera and Jeff serving as interviewer.

“He’s always had a mic,” laughs Heaphy. Jeff took his curiosity to print when locals  Jim Montague and Dick Brennan recruited him to write stories for a small newspaper called Everything Irish. The gig took him to the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian, interviewing congressmen and musicians alike.

A few years back, a Dublin radio producer asked Heaphy and Costello for help with another project — putting together a comparative oral history of Tipperary Hill and County Tipperary in Ireland.

In the neighborhood, Costello also acts on his artistic inclinations every year with the annual shamrock painting tradition that occurs the night before St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, Roesch pours the paint, and Costello designs the shamrock with a mop. His cousin, Ricky O’Meara, began painting the shamrock at the intersection of Milton Avenue and Tompkins Street in the 1970s, enlisting the help of the late Scott Mulholland, one of Costello’s best friends. Costello explains the tradition’s origins with an earnestness, but O’Neill offers an easier explanation: “a lot of beer.”

Despite its boozy beginnings, today, its creators try to impart a more somber tone — perhaps a result of Costello’s own losses, including the deaths of two high school friends and his parents, plus a bout with breast cancer seven years ago. He asked the local churches for lists of the deceased to make the event more inclusive, according to McNamara, and calmed the crowds down, enlisting a friend to sing “Oh Danny Boy.” Today, the organizers read the names of every current or former resident who died in the past year.

Costello also extends his compassion to the living, such as his friend, Joe “JoJo” Leotta, a regular at O’Dea’s. The day of the Shamrock Run, Costello sits at the bar with Leotta, who is intellectually challenged. Since Leotta’s dad died 11 eleven years ago, Costello has adopted a fatherly role. Leotta’s mother, now on kidney dialysis, and his sister, a student, were unable to care for him after his father’s death. So, Costello stepped in, inviting JoJo to a Tipp Hill Athletic Club Association meeting after dropping off a casserole on behalf of Colleen’s church program.

This past year, they went to a Buffalo Bills game together.  “Honestly, thank god for JoJo, because he’s almost like a calendar as a person—he remembers those details,” McNamara says. He’ll remind the forgetful Costello of his commitments. And Costello has become family. “We joke around,” says Leotta with a wide smile.

Costello cites empathy as his biggest value. “Sometimes I’ve been criticized in some ways. People would say I’m an easy mark, ya know?” he says.

Yet, that’s not how his friends see it. “He’ll annoy you he’s so happy,” says Roesch. “But he’s the greatest guy in the world.”


Coleman's Pub

By Audrey Morgan and Dara McBride

As Lowell Avenue staple for the past 84 years, Coleman's serves as a gathering spot for neighbors and visitors to share a Guinness...or two. The Coleman family runs the Tipp Hill St. Patrick's Day festivities and keeps Irish pub tradition alive on the west side of Syracuse.

Building Profile

Take Me To Church

By Audrey Morgan

At St. John the Baptist Church, Ukrainian-American parishioners celebrate their culture and practice their faith.

In a neighborhood known mostly for its Irish influences, St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church fits right in — at least architecturally. “St. John’s has green domes because it’s an Irish church,” Deacon Edward Galvin explains. He is, of course, kidding.The green tint of the domes of St. John’s are the result of pollution and rust. The parish follows the Byzantine rite of Catholicism rather than the Roman version practiced by most Irish Catholics (including those at St. Patrick’s Church down the street).

Parishioners have immigrated to Tipp Hill since the 1890s in search of greater economic opportunity and a means to preserve their culture. The then-Russian Empire had banned all Ukrainian literature, including religious texts. But, with no Byzantine church nearby, parishioners began to worry they’d have to raise their children Roman Catholic. A church committee convened in 1896, and the next year it purchased a simple wooden building at the intersection of Wilbur Avenue and Tompkins Street. St. John’s celebrated its first liturgy in 1898.

In 1913, following a rise in immigration from Western Ukraine, church leaders gutted the existing structure and constructed a new, bigger building around the shell of the existing church. Within a year, 100 families called St. John’s their parish.

Today, number of parishioners ranges between 250 and 300, according to Galvin. The congregation is mostly characterized by fourth-generation immigrants who came to the U.S. after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The church building stands out among the Colonial-style homes that surround it. It features four handsome towers crowned with those prominent copper domes and it’s dotted with stained glass windows. Inside, a gold iconostasis, or screen, separates the church’s nave from the sanctuary. It bears icons depicting scenes of Jesus Christ and a selection of saints, including St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “They’re not so much art as devotional objects,” explains Lou Pizzuti, the parish’s cantor. His voice usually carries the two liturgies the church hosts each Sunday morning—one in Ukrainian and one in both Ukrainian and English — and the Saturday night vigil in English.

One Saturday service draws elderly couples who shuffle into Mass in their peacoats. After the service, a handful of parishioners sit downstairs in the basement outfitted with a kitchen, chatting over poppy seed cake and coffee. Among them are brothers Jerry and Harry Hayduke. “Louie, you comin’ tomorrow?” Jerry asks Pizzuti in Ukrainian-accented English. “No,” the cantor retorts emphatically. “Don’t come at me like that, man!” Jerry says with a laugh before heading home.

The Haydukes were born in a Ukrainian village in 1941, before World War II when they were forced to hide from German soldiers. They eventually ended up in a camp before immigrating to the U.S.

While the church boasts a sizable Ukrainian population, it’s open to parishioners and employees of all origins. Although Deacon Galvin was ordained in 1971 at St. John’s, he is Irish, grew up in Tipp Hill, and was mostly familiar with the Irish side of the neighborhood.

Then, he married a Ukrainian who brought him to the church. Galvin baptized his kids here, married his wife here, buried his wife here. “For a lot of people, the parish is like being part of the family,” Galvin says. “If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t be in the church today,” he adds. He had become disillusioned with the Roman Catholic church because of changes that sought to make the church more popular. “God didn’t change,” he says.

The parish has a long history of political involvement, including activism regarding Ukrainian life under Soviet rule. On Christmas of 1973, for instance, the Women’s Association for Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine distributed a handout in the church dedicating the Mass to the “thousands of innocent children of occupied Ukraine” whose parents were arrested or sent to Siberia. “THIS YEAR’S CHRISTMAS HAS BEEN CANCELLED,” the handout pronounced. Nowadays, especially following Russian military occupation, the church collects objects like coats and medicine to send over to the troops in Ukraine.

St. John’s also shares its culture with the community through the outdoor Ukrainian Festival, which celebrates in late June over two days. Parishioners start planning the next year’s festival immediately after the previous one ends. This past summer, they celebrated the 75th anniversary, for which they made pyrohy, the Ukrainian counterpart to pierogi; kielbasy, a smoked sausage; and borscht, a beet soup. Bands play traditional music, and vendors sell Ukrainian crafts.

Beyond the festival, the parish celebrates Ukrainian independence by raising the country’s flag at Syracuse City Hall on Montgomery Street on August 24 each year. It also offers religious education classes for grades K-8, which students can supplement with a cultural education at the nearby Lesia Ukrainka School School of Ukrainian Studies.

Galvin laughs that Tipp Hill residents often assume St. John’s is the “Baptist” church. But the neighborhood’s Ukrainian and Irish influences easily coexist. In fact, the Irish and Ukrainian festivals coincided until 2008, drawing crowds to both, says Galvin.

Pizzuti, whose heritage is mostly Italian, notes that Albanians once occupied Italy, meaning he could have Byzantine roots, after all. The first time he heard a Ukrainian liturgy, Pizzuti remembers, he didn’t understand any of the words. “But something inside me clicked and said, this is right.



By Audrey Morgan

Timeline loading graphic
Enter Immigrants from the Emerald Isle

Irish immigrants arrive in Central New York as early as the 1820s to escape land wars and famine. They join the salt industry in large numbers, pumping salt brine from the salt beds bordering Onondaga Lake. A second wave arrives to work on the Erie Canal, and immigrants settle along the banks, which will become the West End. The city of Geddes is established in 1848 and Tipp Hill, named for Ireland’s County Tipperary, is incorporated into Syracuse in 1887.

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The Montessori Method is Developed

With a name that would be jarring today, the New York State Asylum for Idiots opens on Wilbur Avenue with about 55 students and becomes known as a pioneer institution in the training of mentally deficient children.

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Irish-Catholic Faithful

St. Patrick’s Church, an Irish-Catholic church, opens. In 2012, it receives a recommendation from the New York State Board for Historical Preservation to be named to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

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The First Saloon Opens

Proprietor D. “Nibsy” Ryan opens Tipp Hill’s first saloon, Nibsy’s, on the ground floor of his house, which remains open through Prohibition. Distributors would unload the beer on the D.L. & W. railroad line. Today 11 pubs exist within a 15-block radius.

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Ukrainian-Americans Seek to Memorialize a Patriot

Ukrainian immigrants begin to arrive. In 1961 Ukrainian-Americans will fight to no avail to change the name of the 1300 block of West Fayette Street to Shevchenko Street after a Ukrainian patriot. District Councilman Stanley J. Laskowski says the proposed ordinance gives him “bleeding ulcers.” Both the Ukrainian-Catholic Church and Ukrainian National Church reside around the corner from each other today.

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A Traffic Light Prompts Irish Annoyance

The city installs traffic lights throughout Tipp Hill. Angry that the “British red” appears above the “Irish green,” Irish youth routinely throw stones at the light that hangs at the intersection between Milton Avenue and Tompkins Street.

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Robert F. Kennedy Visits the Neighborhood

Although the state of New York mandates the red remain above the green on the traffic light, city leaders cave after realizing local youth will continue to knock out the red light with stones. On March 17, the green light is placed permanently above red. It attracts visitors like Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

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The Light Lives On

As part of an ongoing compliance program, Syracuse adjusts traffic lights to meet city standards, but under pressure from the Tipp Hill Protective Association, the infamous light goes under the radar. “I have no comment on that light,” says Transportation Commissioner James Napoleon in an interview with The Post-Standard.

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The Stone Throwers Monument Earns Support

Coleman begins a fundraising effort to build a sculpture of a family admiring the infamous traffic light, known as The Stone Throwers monument.

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A Familiar Ring

By Dara McBride

At Cashel House, an Irish import store in Tipp Hill, smitten shoppers look to “clan up” with a ring that signals their heritage.

Dozens of rings line the jewelry cases that greet customers as they enter the Irish import store in the middle of Tipp Hill. These Claddagh rings, cast in either gold or silver, some plain and some adorned with jewels and Celtic patterns, are staples in the Cashel House. The symbol-heavy bands feature two outstretched hands holding a heart with a crown on top, signifying friendship, love, and loyalty, respectively.

Located inside a green and purple Victorian house across the street from Coleman’s Pub on Tompkins Street, the business’s name references a town in County Tipperary, Ireland, which also serves as the namesake for Syracuse’s Irish neighborhood. The shop, which opened more than 30 years ago, sells Irish-made goods from companies like Dublin-based jeweler ShanOre, Waterford Crystal, and Hanna Hats of Donegal. And when Irish-Americans living in Syracuse want their jewelry, clothing, or home goods to match their roots, they head here.

But among the many offerings of soft merino knits and sparkling crystal, the jewelry stands out. Employees estimate that jewelry commands about one-third of business because it’s something that can be bought year-round, especially as gifts for weddings and other milestones. “It calls to the Celtic part of me,” Cashel House employee Monica Stratton explains from behind the jewelry case. In honor of her Irish heritage, Stratton bought her own set of matching jewelry from the shop for herself and her family.

Local Irish-Americans, who buy variations as engagement rings or wedding bands, consider the Claddagh a favorite. “Yesterday, I sold a wedding ring and then the lady bought six necklaces for attendants’ gifts,” says Cashel House owner Peter Heverin, a native of Belfast in Northern Ireland, pointing to a circular pendant necklace with an Irish phrase engraved into the design. It reads “Come dance with me” in Gaelic and English.

Barbara Walter, a professor who specializes in jewelry and metalsmithing for the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, says people who buy Irish or Celtic jewelry want to be unique while keeping a certain romantic or period look. Wearing the Claddagh is about “clanning up.”

While working from a Comstock Art Facility studio, where several books on Celtic art and design rest on her bookshelves, Walter says, “I always talk about jewelry being a form of identity.” Then, she adds, “Wearing something that is identifiable with a certain area, it does sort of tell people where you associate yourself.”

Irish jewelry has a recognizable design based on repetitions of symbols, weavings, and lines. The Claddagh is in the design family of the ­fede ring, an ancient betrothal design of two hands clasping.

The Claddagh itself — which shares its name with an old Irish fishing village now part of Galway City — goes back to the 15th or 16th century. But, its origins are murky: One legend, recounted in an article for the Irish Arts Review Yearbook, reports that an eagle dropped the first Claddagh ring into the lap of a wealthy widow. Another, cited on the Galway-based Claddagh Jewelers website, says a fisherman captured by pirates fashioned one to keep the girl he left behind in his thoughts.

Heverin says he never hears the Claddagh ring talked about as more than just a wedding ring in Ireland. This may explain why a he picked a thick, gold version of the ring in a clean, hammered design when he married Shelly Mahoney.

The two met at a trade show in New Jersey. At the time, Heverin was the middleman between a cooperative of craft workers and Irish import stores in the U.S. and he was splitting his time between living in Philadelphia and Ireland. Then, he moved to Syracuse to be with Mahoney. She has deep connections to the area: She’s a Syracuse native and the sister of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. They married 10 years ago at Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the West Side and bought the Cashel House from the Coleman family in 2015.  

The couple travels to Ireland frequently to find new items for the Tipp Hill store, as well as their other store, Annie’s Hallmark Shop in Solvay, which also features a section of imported goods. The non-imported exceptions are typically lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day garb – shamrock-patterned scarves and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” socks. But, the couple makes sure to keep the kitsch at the back of the store.

“Shopping in this store is about heritage, and people are interested in where it comes from and who made it,” Heverin says. Some believe it’s unlucky to buy a Claddagh ring just for yourself, but Heverin says that’s just untrue.

Three Questions

The Unofficial Mayor of Tipp Hill

By Audrey Morgan

Pub-owner and idea man Peter Coleman talks about revitalizing his neighborhood, from saloons to swimming pools.

It's hard to talk to 80-year-old Peter Coleman without interruption, especially when he’s motoring from event to event on Green Beer Sunday, the start of the St. Patrick’s Day season and his busiest time of year. When the daughter of a friend stops by his golf cart — his preferred mode of transportation these days — she says, “I'll tell him I kissed ya!" Coleman replies, "Tell him if I see him, I'll kiss ya. I'll give a kick in the ass too." The unofficial mayor of the neighborhood, Coleman has the air of a grownup leprechaun and is easily recognizable for his impish grin, round tortoiseshell glasses, and tuft of white hair. He took over Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub from his father, Peter Sr., in the 1960s. Since then, he's driven many Tipp Hill revitalization efforts — from renovating houses in the neighborhood to installing the Celtic crosses that decorate the area — and he has no plans of stopping any time soon.

How would you describe this block?

Well, it's still one of the neighborhoods that you can walk around in and don't have to worry. If you're a young, affable person — and you’ve got a lot of young people that live around here — you've got 11 saloons within a 15-block area. You've got a park with a world-class zoo right up the street, a golf course and a swimming pool in that park. You've got five churches within walking distance — a Russian church, a Catholic church, a Polish church, and a Ukrainian church. We've got it all right here within a 15-block area. And everybody's friendly, so that's helpful.

What’s your favorite memory here?

This is my 62nd year going into a St. Patrick's Day. But I would say the first one was probably the most impressive because it was all so new. It was both my first big St. Patrick's Day celebration and Green Beer Sunday. We were just getting a feel for what it would be like with these big crowds, and we got 'em right off the bat, and it's been happening that way ever since. That was pretty powerful, now that I think about it. But other than that, we met a lot of interesting people here from all over the world so it's been great that way. I mean, Coleman's is a destination now in Syracuse. It really is and I'm pretty proud of that.

What future do you see for this block?

Only up from here, I hope. My son Dennis is running Coleman's now, and he's third generation. He has the same feel for not only this neighborhood, but the business and the whole property around here. So you know we'll keep it going. I've got 13 grandchildren, so we'll have a lot of Coleman’s kids around here running the pubs for a long time.


Step Up

By Dara McBride

Block in Stats




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All data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, broken down according to the census tract in which the block is located.