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Woe To The Orangemen—and To The Color-blind

March 2023
1min read

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, we should mention a strange, little-known monument to Irish contentiousness in Syracuse, New York. It is a traffic light—perhaps the only one of its kind in America—that has the green light on top of the red.

According to John C. McGuire, the unofficial historian of the “Tipperary Hill” area in the western part of the city, the traffic light was first erected in 1925. Dinty Gilmartin, who owned a store nearby, was instantly alarmed and grabbed his telephone: “They got it all mixed up,” he told the local boss, John “Huckle” Ryan. “The red is on top; you better get here before something happens.”

Sure enough, by the time Ryan arrived, the light was smashed. State law said the red had to be on top, and a new light was put up despite Ryan’s protests. It was immediately wrecked, as was the next one. At last the city surrendered, and Tipperary Hill got its upside-down traffic light. It has remained undisturbed ever since.

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