Onondaga County
Onondaga County Courthouse at Columbus Circle in Syracuse
Onondaga County Courthouse at Columbus Circle in Syracuse
Flag of Onondaga County
Official seal of Onondaga County
Map of New York highlighting Onondaga County
Location within the U.S. state of New York
Map of the United States highlighting New York
New York's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 43°01′N 76°12′W / 43.01°N 76.2°W / 43.01; -76.2
Country United States
State New York
Named forOnondaga people
Largest citySyracuse
 • County ExecutiveJ. Ryan McMahon II (R)
 • Total806 sq mi (2,090 km2)
 • Land778 sq mi (2,020 km2)
 • Water27 sq mi (70 km2)  3.4%
 • Total476,516
 • Density600/sq mi (200/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district22nd

Onondaga County (/ˌɒnənˈdɑːɡə/ ON-ən-DAH-gə) is a county in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2020 census, the population was 476,516.[1] The county seat is Syracuse.[2]

Onondaga County is the core of the Syracuse, NY MSA.


See also: History of Syracuse, New York

The name Onondaga derives from the name of the Native American tribe who lived in this area at the time of European contact, one of the original Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee. They called themselves (autonym) Onoda'gega, sometimes spelled Onontakeka. The word means "People of the Hills." Sometimes the term was Onondagaono ("The People of the Hills"). The federally recognized Onondaga Nation has a 9.3 square miles (24 km2) reservation within the county, on which they have self-government.

When counties were established in New York in 1683, the present Onondaga County was part of Albany County. This enormous county included the northern part of New York State as well as all of the present State of Vermont and, in theory, extended westward to the Pacific Ocean. It was reduced in size on July 3, 1766, by the creation of Cumberland County, and further on March 16, 1770, by the creation of Gloucester County, both containing territory now in Vermont.

On March 12, 1772, what was left of Albany County was split into three parts, one remaining under the name Albany County. One of the other pieces, Tryon County, contained the western portion (and thus, since no western boundary was specified, theoretically still extended west to the Pacific). The eastern boundary of Tryon County was approximately 5 miles (8 km) west of the present city of Schenectady, and the county included the western part of the Adirondack Mountains and the area west of the West Branch of the Delaware River. The area then designated as Tryon County now includes 37 counties of New York State. The county was named for William Tryon, colonial governor of New York.

Oneida Lake borders Onondaga County to the northeast. It is the largest lake wholly within the state of New York. This picture was taken from the town of Cicero, a northern suburban town in the northeast part of Onondaga County.

In the years prior to 1776, most of the Loyalists in Tryon County fled to Canada. The Onondaga were among four Iroquois tribes that allied with the British against the American colonists, as they hoped to end their encroachment. Instead, they were forced to cede most of their land in New York to the United States after the war. Many Onondaga went with Joseph Brant and other nations to Canada, where they received land grants in compensation and formed the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation.

In 1784, after a peace treaty ended the American Revolutionary War, the name of Tryon County was changed to Montgomery County. It honored General Richard Montgomery, who had captured several places in Canada and died attempting to capture the city of Quebec, and replaced the name of the hated British governor.

In 1789, Montgomery County was reduced by the splitting off of Ontario County from Montgomery. The actual area split off from Montgomery County was much larger than the present county, also including the present Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Steuben, Wyoming, Yates, and part of Schuyler and Wayne Counties.

In 1791, Herkimer County was one of three counties split off from Montgomery (the other two being Otsego, and Tioga County). This was much larger than the present county, however, and was reduced by a number of subsequent splits.

In 1794, Onondaga County was split off from Herkimer County. This county was larger than the current Onondaga County, including the present Cayuga, Cortland, and part of Oswego Counties.

In 1799, Cayuga County was split off from Onondaga.

In 1808, Cortland County was split off from Onondaga.

In 1816, parts of Oneida and Onondaga Counties were taken to form the new Oswego County.

At the time Onondaga County was organized, it was divided into eleven towns: Homer, Pompey, Manlius, Lysander, Marcellus, Ulysses, Milton, Scipio, Ovid, Aurelius and Romulus.[3]

Central New York developed rapidly after the New Military Tract provided land in lieu of payment to Revolutionary War veterans. Migration was largely from the east, mostly from New England states. The Genesee Road, which became the Seneca Turnpike in 1800, provided access. Generally settlers preferred higher land, since they associated lowlands with disease. Over time, as early clearing and farming eroded hillside soil, valley lands were more fertile and highly prized for agriculture as well as for water power, which was the origin of many communities. An early settler of 1823 was James Hutchinson Woodworth, a native of Washington County, NY. He helped clear land for his family's farm in this region before he moved to Chicago where he became Mayor. The completion of the Erie Canal across New York state in 1825 accelerated trade, development and migration.

The city of Syracuse, New York developed relatively late, due to its marshy situation. It was incorporated as a village in 1825 and as a city in 1847; by contrast, the Village of Manlius, along the Cherry Valley and Seneca Turnpikes, was incorporated in 1813. The population of these rural towns was greatest in the late nineteenth century, when more people cultivated land and farms were relatively small, supporting large households.

Since that time, agriculture has declined in the county. Some Onondaga County towns like Spafford were largely depopulated and many villages became veritable ghost towns. Onondaga County highlands now are more heavily reforested, with public parks and preserves providing recreation. Two Finger Lakes in the county, Skaneateles and Otisco, also attract visitors. The village of Skaneateles on scenic Route 20 has become a major tourist destination.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, population declined in the City of Syracuse while suburban communities generally grew, particularly with tract developments north of the city. Elsewhere, scattered commuter houses appeared, generally on fairly large parcels. The rapid development of the village of Skaneateles and shores of Skaneateles Lake led to increased demand for property and property values.

Onondaga Lake Park in the northern suburbs of Syracuse. Picture captures Onondaga Lake with the Syracuse skyline in the background. Onondaga Lake Park attracts over one million visitors each year.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has an area of 806 square miles (2,090 km2), of which 778 square miles (2,020 km2) is land and 27 square miles (70 km2) (3.4%) is water.[4] The geographic dimensions of the county are illustrated as approximately 35 miles (56 km) in length and 30 miles (48 km) in width, and comprising 25 miles (40 km) of the New York State Barge Canal System, in combination with a number of lakes, streams and rivers.[5] Onondaga County is in the central portion of New York State, west of Albany and Utica, east of Rochester and northeast of Ithaca. Onondaga Lake is bordered by many of the larger communities in the county. The highest point in Onondaga County is at 2057 feet, along Morgan Hill located just east of Morgan Hill State Forest on private property. The second highest point in Onondaga County is at 2019 feet elevation and on the summit of Fellows Hill which is located in Morgan Hill State Forest near Fabius and Apulia south of state route 80.

The northern part of the county is fairly level lake plain, extending northward to Lake Ontario. Oneida Lake three rivers, as well as the Erie and subsequent Barge Canals are in the lake plain. The main line of the New York Central Railroad and the New York State Thruway extend east and west across the county through the lake plain. The southern part of the county is Appalachian Plateau, with high hills rising at the southern edge of Syracuse. This is the eastern part of the Finger Lakes region. Skaneateles Lake and Otisco Lake are both in Onondaga County. US 20 extends east and west across the county, traversing dramatic hill-and-valley terrain. Between the lake plain and Appalachian highlands is a zone noted for drumlins, smaller, scattered hills formed as mounds of debris left by the last glacier. Tully is geologically noted for the terminal moraine deposited there by the glacier, filling the deep Tully Valley, which might have been another Finger Lake had the moraine been left closer to Syracuse, impounding water. Tully is at the divide between two major watersheds, one flowing northward to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the St. Lawrence River and the other southward to the ocean via the Susquehanna River.[6] Oneida Lake, the Finger Lakes, and smaller bodies of water provide recreation. The Appalachian hills have several ski areas, waterfalls and historic villages as well as large parks and forest preserves.

Lakes and reservoirs

Jamesville Reservoir

Adjacent counties

Lysander, a northwest suburb of Syracuse, New York

Major highways


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[7]
1790-1960[8] 1900-1990[9]
1990-2000[10] 2010-2019[1]
Skaneateles Lake is one of the Finger Lakes in Onondaga County.

As of the census[11] of 2000, the county had 458,336 people, 181,153 households, and 115,394 families. The population density was 587 inhabitants per square mile (227/km2). There were 196,633 housing units at an average density of 252 units per square mile (97/km2). The county's racial makeup was 84.78% White, 9.38% African American, 0.86% Native American, 2.09% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.89% from other races, and 1.97% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.44% of the population. About 17.5% were of Italian, 16.2% Irish, 12.4% German, 9.4% English, and 6.0% Polish ancestry according to the 2000 United States Census, and 91.4% spoke English, 2.4% Spanish and 1.1% Italian as their first language.

Of the 181,153 households, 31.90% had children under age 18 living with them, 46.90% were married couples living together, 12.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.30% were not families. About 29.40% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.07.

25.80% of the county's population was under age 18, 9.50% was from age 18 to 24, 28.80% was from age 25 to 44, 22.10% was from age 45 to 64, and 13.80% was age 65 or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.70 males.

The county's median household income was $40,847, and the median family income was $51,876. Males had a median income of $39,048 versus $27,154 for females. The county's per capita income was $21,336. About 8.60% of families and 12.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.50% of those under age 18 and 7.10% of those age 65 or over.

2020 Census

Onondaga County Racial Composition[12]
Race Num. Perc.
White (NH) 347,290 73%
Black or African American (NH) 54,410 11.42%
Native American (NH) 2,940 0.62%
Asian (NH) 20,119 4.22%
Pacific Islander (NH) 106 0.02%
Other/Mixed (NH) 25,079 5.26%
Hispanic or Latino 26,572 5.57%


Onondaga is home to Syracuse University, a major research university and SUNY Upstate Medical University, a public medical school. Upstate Medical University is the largest producer of jobs in the region with a direct workforce of 10,959 employees.[13]

Other higher educational institutions include SUNY Oswego’s Syracuse Campus, Le Moyne College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Onondaga Community College, St. Joseph's College of Nursing, and several for-profit colleges.

Government and politics

United States presidential election results for Onondaga County, New York[14]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 91,715 38.85% 138,991 58.88% 5,362 2.27%
2016 83,649 40.13% 112,337 53.89% 12,454 5.97%
2012 78,831 38.51% 122,254 59.72% 3,632 1.77%
2008 84,972 38.94% 129,317 59.25% 3,950 1.81%
2004 94,006 43.80% 116,381 54.23% 4,238 1.97%
2000 83,678 41.09% 109,896 53.97% 10,069 4.94%
1996 73,771 37.84% 100,190 51.40% 20,978 10.76%
1992 77,642 36.13% 90,645 42.18% 46,620 21.69%
1988 104,080 51.91% 94,751 47.26% 1,654 0.82%
1984 121,857 59.64% 81,777 40.03% 680 0.33%
1980 97,887 50.65% 73,453 38.00% 21,940 11.35%
1976 115,474 59.96% 76,097 39.51% 1,007 0.52%
1972 140,039 69.18% 61,895 30.58% 482 0.24%
1968 95,806 50.46% 83,576 44.02% 10,483 5.52%
1964 63,205 32.92% 128,630 66.99% 179 0.09%
1960 107,170 54.08% 90,836 45.84% 150 0.08%
1956 137,852 73.42% 49,918 26.58% 0 0.00%
1952 119,268 64.96% 64,022 34.87% 302 0.16%
1948 84,370 53.86% 66,295 42.32% 5,983 3.82%
1944 80,507 52.06% 73,562 47.57% 569 0.37%
1940 91,056 57.26% 67,481 42.44% 485 0.30%
1936 80,498 55.03% 62,945 43.03% 2,827 1.93%
1932 66,363 49.81% 62,227 46.71% 4,629 3.47%
1928 76,278 57.04% 54,706 40.91% 2,732 2.04%
1924 65,395 64.90% 24,773 24.58% 10,601 10.52%
1920 57,008 66.25% 23,308 27.09% 5,731 6.66%
1916 27,815 55.35% 19,892 39.58% 2,546 5.07%
1912 16,202 35.29% 15,827 34.47% 13,888 30.25%
1908 27,209 58.70% 16,643 35.90% 2,503 5.40%
1904 27,115 62.60% 14,633 33.78% 1,569 3.62%
1900 24,317 59.37% 14,698 35.89% 1,942 4.74%
1896 25,032 62.36% 13,695 34.12% 1,414 3.52%
1892 19,008 52.94% 14,900 41.50% 1,996 5.56%
1888 20,144 57.65% 14,001 40.07% 796 2.28%
1884 16,892 54.92% 13,166 42.81% 700 2.28%


Onondaga County was governed exclusively by a board of supervisors until 1961, when voters approved the creation of the county executive.[15] In 1968, the board reorganized into a 24-seat county legislature.[16] In 2001, the legislature was reduced to 19 seats. In 2010, voters approved a measure to reduce the legislature to 17 seats. None of the legislative seats, nor the county executive's seat, are at-large. Currently, there are 11 Republicans and 6 Democrats.[17] J. Ryan McMahon II (R) is the current County Executive.[18]


Historically, Onondaga County was a Republican stronghold, like most of Central New York. From 1856 to 1988, the GOP carried the county in all but one presidential election, Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide in 1964. Since 1992, the county has gone Democratic in every presidential election, much like many urban counties around the country. However, it is a swing county in congressional, state and local races. Onondaga is entirely located within New York's 22nd Congressional District, represented by Republican Brandon Williams. Democratic strength is concentrated in Syracuse itself, while Republicans do well in the suburbs.

Onondaga County Executives
Name Party Term
John H. Mulroy Republican January 1, 1962 – December 31, 1987
Nicholas J. Pirro Republican January 1, 1988 – December 31, 2007
Joanne M. Mahoney Republican January 1, 2008 – November 1, 2018
J. Ryan McMahon, II Republican November 1, 2018 –
Onondaga County Legislature
District Legislator Party Residence
1 Brian F. May, Majority Leader Republican Baldwinsville
2 James J. Rowley, Chairman Republican Clay
3 Tim Burtis Republican Cicero
4 Colleen A. Gunnip Republican Liverpool
5 Debra J. Cody Republican Liverpool
6 Julie Abbott Republican Skaneateles
7 Mary T. Kuhn Democratic Syracuse
8 Christopher J. Ryan, Minority Leader Democratic Syracuse
9 Peggy Chase Democratic Syracuse
10 Mark Olson Republican Fayetteville
11 Richard McCarron Republican Syracuse
12 David H. Knapp Republican LaFayette
13 Kenneth L. Bush Jr. Republican Jordan
14 Cody M. Kelly Republican Clay
15 Bill Kinne Democratic Syracuse
16 Charles E. Garland Democratic Syracuse
17 Linda Ervin Democratic Jamesville

As of 2021, the sheriff of Onondaga County is Eugene J. Conway.[19] Along with Broome County, New York, Onondaga County was sued in 2017 over placing juvenile inmates in solitary confinement.[20]


A map of towns (white), the city (orange), and villages (yellow) in Onondaga County (Indian reservation colored purple)

Syracuse, the county seat, is the only city in Onondaga County. The following is a list of official towns, villages, and hamlets.[21]

Population ranking

# Location Population Type Area
1 Syracuse 145,252 City Greater Syracuse
2 Lysander 21,759 CDP West
3 Fairmount 10,224 CDP Greater Syracuse
4 Baldwinsville 7,378 Village West
5 North Syracuse 6,800 Village North
6 Solvay 6,584 Village Greater Syracuse
7 Mattydale 6,446 CDP Greater Syracuse
8 Westvale 4,963 CDP Greater Syracuse
9 Manlius 4,704 Village East
10 Galeville 4,617 CDP Greater Syracuse
11 Fayetteville 4,373 Village East
12 Lyncourt 4,250 CDP Greater Syracuse
13 Brewerton 4,029 CDP North
14 Village Green 3,891 CDP West
15 Minoa 3,449 Village East
16 East Syracuse 3,084 Village Greater Syracuse
17 Lakeland 2,786 CDP Greater Syracuse
18 Skaneateles 2,450 Village West
19 Liverpool 2,347 Village Greater Syracuse
20 Nedrow 2,244 CDP Greater Syracuse
21 Seneca Knolls 2,011 CDP West
22 Marcellus 1,813 Village West
23 Bridgeport 1,409 CDP East
24 Jordan 1,368 Village West
25 Camillus 1,213 Village Greater Syracuse
26 Elbridge 1,058 Village West
27 Tully 873 Village South
28 Fabius 352 Village South
- De Witt N/A CDP Greater Syracuse
- Radisson N/A CDP North

† - County seat

‡ - Not entirely in Onondaga County

List of municipalities



Native American reservations

See also


  1. ^ a b "US Census Bureau QuickFacts". Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ History of Onondaga County, Professor W. W. Clayton, 1878, 1878, archived from the original on September 27, 2012, retrieved August 25, 2010
  4. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  5. ^ "Onondaga County Sheriff's Office website, October 12, 2015". ongov.net. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  6. ^ Kappel, William; Miller, Todd; Hetcher, Kari. "Hydrogeology of the Tully Lakes Area in Southern Onondaga and Northern Cortland Counties, New York" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  7. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  9. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 19, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  10. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  11. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  12. ^ "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE – 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) – Onondaga County, New York".
  13. ^ "The Economic and Community Impact of Upstate Medical University" (PDF).
  14. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  15. ^ Onondaga County Charter Commission (September 5, 1961), PROPOSED ONONDAGA COUNTY CHARTER ADOPTED BY THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS SEPTEMBER 5, 1961 SUBJECT TO APPROVAL BY REFERENDUM NOVEMBER 7, 1961, Syracuse, New York, pp. 3–4((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  16. ^ Board Executive Office (1967), "LOCAL LAW NO. 2—1966", Journal of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Onondaga for 1966, Syracuse, New York, pp. 182–187
  17. ^ "Onondaga County Legislature". www.ongov.net. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  18. ^ McMahon, Julie. (2018, November 1). "Ryan McMahon officially sworn in as Onondaga County's 4th executive," Syracuse.com. Accessed: November 2, 2018.
  19. ^ "Onondaga County Sheriff's Office". Onondaga County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  20. ^ Feuer, Alan (July 31, 2017). "Upstate County Jails Are Challenged for Sending Juveniles to Solitary". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  21. ^ New York State Gazetteer, Albany, NY: New York State Department of Health, 1995 Available at New York State Library Digital Image Project Archived 2006-10-02 at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading

43°01′N 76°12′W / 43.01°N 76.20°W / 43.01; -76.20