Ithaca, New York

Ithaca, New York
—  City  —
Ithaca is located in New York
Coordinates: 42°26′36″N 76°30′0″W / 42.44333°N 76.5°W / 42.44333; -76.5Coordinates: 42°26′36″N 76°30′0″W / 42.44333°N 76.5°W / 42.44333; -76.5
Country United States
US state New York
County Tompkins
Founded 1790
Incorporated 1888
 – Mayor Carolyn K. Peterson (D)
 – Common Council
 – City 6.1 sq mi (15.7 km2)
 – Land 5.5 sq mi (14.1 km2)
 – Water 0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2)
Elevation 446 ft (136 m)
Population (2010)
 – City 30,014 (city proper)
 – Density 5,363.9/sq mi (2,071.0/km2)
 – Metro 101,564
 – Demonym Ithacan
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)
Area code(s) 607
FIPS code 36-38077

The city of Ithaca, is a city in upstate New York and the county seat of Tompkins County, as well as the largest community in the Ithaca-Tompkins County metropolitan area (which also contains the separate municipalities of the town of Ithaca, the village of Cayuga Heights, the village of Lansing and other towns and villages in Tompkins County). The city of Ithaca sits on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, in Central New York. It is named for the Greek island of Ithaca,[1]

Ithaca is best known for being home to Cornell University, an Ivy League school of over 20,000 students (most of whom study on Cornell’s Ithaca campus).[2][3] Ithaca College is located just south of the city in the town of Ithaca, adding to Ithaca’s "college town" focus and atmosphere. Nearby is Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3).[4] These three colleges influence Ithaca's seasonal population. In 2010, the city's population was 30,014, and the metropolitan area had a population of 101,564.

Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca is the North American seat of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.[5]



Early history

The inhabitants of the Ithaca area at the time Europeans began arriving were the Saponi and Tutelo Indians, dependent tribes of the Cayuga Indians who formed part of the Iroquois confederation. These tribes had been allowed to settle on Cayuga-controlled hunting lands at the south end of Cayuga Lake as well as in Pony (originally Sapony) Hollow of Newfield, New York, after being forced from North Carolina by European invasion. They were driven from the area by the Sullivan Expedition which destroyed the Tutelo village of Coregonal, located near the junction of state routes 13 and 13A just south of the Ithaca city limits. Indian presence in the current City of Ithaca was limited to a temporary hunting camp at the base of Cascadilla Gorge. The destruction of Iroquois confederation power opened the region to settlement by people of European origin, a process which began in 1789. In 1790, an official program began for distributing land in the area as a reward for service to the American soldiers of the Revolutionary War; most local land titles trace back to the Revolutionary war grants. Lots were drawn in 1791; informal settlement had already started.

Partition of the Military Tract

As part of this process, the Central New York Military Tract, which included northern Tompkins County, was surveyed by Simeon DeWitt. His clerk Robert Harpur had a fondness for ancient Greek and Roman history as well as English authors and philosophers (as evidenced by the nearby townships of Dryden and Locke). The Commissioners of Lands of New York State (chairman Gov. George Clinton) followed Harpur's recommendations at a meeting in 1790. The Military Tract township in which proto-Ithaca was located he named the Town of Ulysses, the Latin form of the Greek Odysseus from Homer's Odyssey. A few years later DeWitt moved to Ithaca, then called variously "The Flats," "The City," or "Sodom," and named it for the Greek island home of Ulysses (still the surrounding township at the time — nowadays Ulysses is a separate town in Tompkins County). Contrary to popular myth, DeWitt did not name many of the classical references found in Upstate New York such as Syracuse and Troy; these were from the general classical fervor of the times.

The growth of Ithaca, village and city

State Street in Ithaca, ca. 1901
A view of the shops and businesses on the Ithaca Commons.

In the 1820s and 1830, Ithaca held high hopes of becoming a major city when the primitive Ithaca and Owego Railway was completed in 1832 to connect the Erie Canal navigation with the Susquehanna River to the south. In 1821, the village set itself off by incorporation at the same time the Town of Ithaca parted with the parent town of Ulysses. These hopes survived the depression of 1837 when the railroad was re-organized as the Cayuga & Susquehanna and re-engineered with switchbacks in the late 1840s; much of this route is now used by the South Hill Recreation Way. However, easier routes soon became available, such as the Syracuse, Binghamton & New York (1854). In the decade following the Civil War railroads were built from Ithaca to all surrounding points (Geneva, New York; Cayuga, New York; Cortland, New York; Elmira, New York; Athens, Pennsylvania) mainly with financing from Ezra Cornell; however, the geography of the city has always prevented it from lying on a major transportation artery. When the Lehigh Valley Railroad later built its main line from Pennsylvania to Buffalo in 1890 it bypassed Ithaca (running via eastern Schuyler County on easier grades), as the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad had done in the 1850s.

The late nineteenth century gave birth to the two major postsecondary educational institutions Ithaca has today. In 1865, Ezra Cornell founded Cornell University. It was opened as a coeducational institution, which was extremely unusual at the time; women first enrolled in 1870. Ezra Cornell also established a public library for the city. Ithaca College was founded as the Ithaca Conservatory of Music in 1892. Ithaca College was originally located in the Downtown, but due to the lack of space, it was relocated to South Hill in the 1960s.

Ithaca became a city in 1888 and emerged as a small manufacturing and retail center. Notably the Ithaca Gun Factory opened in 1881. The largest industrial company (and associated building) in the area was Morse Chain, elements of which were absorbed into Emerson Power Transmission on South Hill and Borg Warner Automotive in Lansing, New York. In the post-World War II decades, National Cash Register and the Langmuir Research Labs of General Electric were also major employers.

During the early 20th century, Ithaca was an important center in the silent film industry. The most common type of film produced was the cliffhanger serial. These films often featured the local natural scenery. Many of these films were the work of Leopold Wharton and his brother Theodore Wharton in their studio on the site of what is now Stewart Park. Eventually the film industry centralized in Hollywood, which offered the possibility of year-round filming, and film production in Ithaca effectively ceased. Few of the silent films made in Ithaca are preserved today.

Geography and climate

Hemlock Gorge along Fall Creek before emptying into Beebe Lake on Cornell's campus.

The valley in which Cayuga Lake is located is long and narrow with a north-south orientation. Ithaca is at the southern end (the "head") of the lake, but the valley continues to the southwest behind the city. Originally a river valley, it was deepened and widened by the action of Pleistocene ice sheets over the last several hundred thousand years. The lake, which drains to the north, formed behind a dam of glacial moraine. The rock is predominantly Devonian and, north of Ithaca, is relatively fossil rich. Glacial erratics can be found in the area. The world-renowned fossils found in this area can be examined at the Museum of the Earth.

Ithaca was founded on flat land just south of the lake — land that formed in fairly recent geological times when silt filled the southern end of the lake. The city ultimately spread to the adjacent hillsides, which rise several hundred feet above the central flats: East Hill, West Hill, and South Hill. Its sides are fairly steep, and a number of the streams that flow into the valley from east or west have cut deep canyons, usually with several waterfalls.

Ithaca experiences a moderate continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and sometimes hot and humid summers. The valley flatland has slightly milder weather in winter, and occasionally Ithacans experience simultaneous snow on the hills and rain in the valley. The phenomenon of mixed precipitation (rain, wind, and snow), common in the late fall and early spring, is known tongue-in-cheek as ithacation to many of the local residents.[6]

The natural vegetation of the Ithaca area, seen in areas unbuilt and unfarmed, is northern temperate broadleaf forest, dominated by deciduous trees.

Due to the microclimates created by the impact of the lakes, the region surrounding Ithaca (Finger Lakes American Viticultural Area) experiences a short but adequate growing season for winemaking. As such the region is home to many wineries.

Climate data for Ithaca, New York (Cornell University, 1971–2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 31.2
Average low °F (°C) 13.9
Record low °F (°C) −25
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.12
Snowfall inches (cm) 18.8
Avg. precipitation days 15.8 13.0 13.6 13.6 13.3 12.5 11.7 11.0 12.8 13.2 13.9 14.8 159.2
Avg. snowy days 12.2 9.5 6.9 2.2 0.1 0 0 0 0 0.3 4.2 9.1 44.5
Source: NOAA [7]


Ithaca is a major educational center in Central New York. The city is home to Cornell University which overlooks the town from East Hill, and Ithaca College, situated on South Hill. The student population is very high as there are currently more than 20,000 students enrolled at Cornell, with an additional 6,300 students at Ithaca College.[8] Tompkins Cortland Community College is located in the neighboring town of Dryden, New York, and has an extension center in downtown Ithaca. Empire State College offers non-traditional college courses to adults in downtown Ithaca.

The Ithaca City School District, which encompasses Ithaca and the surrounding area, enrolls about 5,500 K-12 students in eight elementary schools, two middle schools, Ithaca High School, and the Lehman Alternative Community School, which provides its students wide-ranging freedom to choose their own curriculum. There are also several private elementary and secondary schools in the Ithaca area, including Immaculate Conception School, the Cascadilla School, and New Roots Charter School. New Roots is a small charter school of approximately 175 students, 225 at full enrollment featuring small class sizes, mentoring relationships with faculty, and a Farm to School meal program. The school has a cross-disciplinary, experience-based, “whole Earth community” curriculum and is located in the Clinton House on N. Cayuga St across from the Ithaca Commons.


The economy of Ithaca is based on education and manufacturing with high tech and tourism in strong supporting roles. As of 2006, Ithaca remains one of the few expanding economies in economically troubled New York State outside of New York City, and draws commuters from the neighboring rural counties of Cortland, Tioga, and Schuyler, as well as from the more urbanized Chemung County.

With some level of success, Ithaca has tried to maintain a traditional downtown shopping area that includes the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall and Center Ithaca, a small mixed-use complex built at the end of the urban renewal era. Some in the community regret that downtown has lost vitality to two expanding commercial zones to the northeast and southwest of the old city. These areas contain an increasing number of large retail stores and restaurants run by national chains. Others say the chain stores boost local shopping options for residents considerably, many of whom would have previously shopped elsewhere, while increasing sales tax revenue for the city and county. Still others note that the stores, restaurants, and businesses that remain in downtown are not necessarily in direct competition with the larger chain stores. The tradeoff between sprawl and economic development continues to be debated throughout the city and the surrounding area. (Another commercial center, Collegetown, is located next to the Cornell campus. It features a number of restaurants, shops, and bars, and an increasing number of high rise apartments and is primarily frequented by Cornell University students.)

Ithaca has many of the businesses characteristic of small American university towns: used bookstores, art house cinemas, craft stores, and vegetarian restaurants. The collective Moosewood Restaurant, founded in 1973, was the wellspring for a number of vegetarian cookbooks; Bon Appetit magazine ranked it among the thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th century. It is claimed locally that Ithaca has more restaurants per capita than New York City.[9] Ithaca has many local restaurants and chains both in the city and town with a range of ethnic foods. Perhaps Ithaca's most well known restaurant is Moosewood Restaurant, known for its vegetarian cooking, which was named one of the thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appetit magazine. The innovative and popular Ithaca Bakery chain , and the Ithaca Farmers Market [10] also provide a range of foods.

An aerial view of Stewart Park as 6,000 Ithaca residents set the unofficial world record for the largest human peace sign in June, 2008.


Ithacans support the Ithaca Farmers Market, professional theaters (Kitchen Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Icarus Theatre), a civic orchestra, much parkland, the Sciencenter, a hands-on science museum for people of all ages, an independent movie theater (Cinemapolis), and the Museum of the Earth. Ithaca is noted for its annual artistic celebration of community: The Ithaca Festival (and its parade), the Circus Eccentrithaca. The Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts provides grants and Summer Fellowships at the Saltonstall Arts Colony for New York State artists and writers. Ithaca also hosts what is described as the third-largest used-book sale in the United States. Other festivals occur annually, with music and food. These include The Apple Festival in the fall, with many different varieties of apples and apple products; Chili Fest in February, a local contest involving many local restaurants who compete to make the best chili in several different categories; the Finger Lakes International Dragon Boat Festival in July; Porchfest in late September, which included an eclectic mix of local musicians performing throughout the day on an array of porches in Fall Creek homes.

In June 2008, local peace activist Trevor Dougherty led almost 6,000 members of the Ithaca community in forming a giant human peace sign. This event took part during the Ithaca Festival, making Ithaca the unofficial home of the world's largest human peace sign.[11]

In August, Women's Swimmin' has a swim across Cayuga Lake to raise money for Hospicare.[12]

Ithaca has also pioneered the Ithaca Health Fund, a popular cooperative health insurance. Ithaca is also home to one of the United States' first local currency systems, Ithaca Hours, developed by Paul Glover (building on the pioneering work of Ralph Borsodi and Robert Swann).

It is claimed locally that in 1891, Rev. John M. Scott and a local druggist, Chester Platt, invented the ice cream sundae in Ithaca,[13][14] though other cities, such as Two Rivers, Wisconsin, make the same claim.[15]

Music and musicians

Ithaca is known for its resident musicians, who contribute to a music scene which is unusually talented and diverse for such a small town. These musicians have come from many backgrounds to pursue their careers in Ithaca; the School of Music at Ithaca College attracts talented musicians, some of whom remain in Ithaca after graduating and take up work as performing musicians or in the sound engineering field. Ithaca is the seat of the Official Orchestra of the City of Ithaca, commonly known under the name Cayuga Chamber Orchestra.

Several notable musicians have relocated from other countries to Ithaca in order to begin their careers, most notably Samite of Uganda, Mamadou Diabaté of Mali and Malang Jobateh of Senegal. Other regionally, nationally and internationally known performers and musical groups that call Ithaca home include: Donna the Buffalo, The Burns Sisters, jazz cellist Hank Roberts, Johnny Dowd, Jimkata, John Brown's Body, Ayurveda, The Gunpoets, The Sim Redmond Band, Nate & Kate, The Horse Flies, Technicolor Trailer Park, Mike Brindisi & The New York Rock, Who You Are, Willie B, and Kevin Kinsella. Traditional folk music is a staple and is featured weekly on North America's longest running live folk concert broadcast WVBR 93.5 FM's Bound for Glory.

In the nearby village of Trumansburg, the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance is held every third week in July. Initiated as a benefit for Aids research at the State Theater in Ithaca by the band Donna the Buffalo, it has successfully occurred every year for the past 18 years. The Grassroots Festival has brought hundreds and hundreds of bands through the region, further enriching the local musical palate with every new introduction of musical style and culture. Several local bands call it home as either a figurative birthplace or a nurturing environment within which to develop new forms of music. Other notable local music festivals include the Ithaca Festival, Musefest, the Summertime Block Party, the Juneteenth Celebration and Rock the Arts.

Ithaca is also home to an Underground Music scene known as Ithaca Underground. This music scene is a non-commercial, DIY scene that focuses on genres of music outside the pop music mainstream(s), including genres that many people would consider unlistenable. All Ithaca Underground shows are all ages shows and book both local and national bands that focus on these music genres.


The Clinton House, a 19th century building in downtown Ithaca

The dominant local newspaper in Ithaca is a morning daily, The Ithaca Journal, founded 1815. The paper is owned by Gannett, Inc., publishers of USA Today. The alternative weekly newspaper Ithaca Times is distributed free of charge. Other area publications include Tompkins Weekly, the Ithaca Community News, 14850 Magazine, the Cornell Daily Sun, the Ithacan, and the Tattler. (The latter three are run by student staffs at Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Ithaca High School, respectively.)

Ithaca is also home to several radio stations. WVBR 93.5 FM is associated with Cornell University in the sense that it is owned and predominantly staffed by an association composed of enrolled Cornell students; but it is an independent, financially self-supporting commercial station in the rock format playing a mix of modern and classic rock during the week and specialty shows on the weekend. WICB 91.7 FM is an award-winning, non-commercial, student-run station owned by Ithaca College. The Cayuga Radio Group, a subsidiary of Saga Communications, Inc., owns country WQNY "Q-Country" 103.7 FM, WYXL "Lite Rock" 97.3 FM, news/talk WHCU 870 AM, progressive talk WNYY 1470 AM, as well as classic rock "I-100" WIII 99.9 FM, with its main transmitter in Cortland and a repeating station at 100.3 FM in Ithaca. Saga also has lower-powered "translator" stations "Hits 103.3" and "98.7 The Vine" on the FM dial. WFIZ "Z95.5" is also in the area, broadcasting a top-40, CHR format. Classic rock "The Wall" WLLW 99.3 and 96.3, based in Seneca Falls, has a transmitter in Ithaca. There is also NPR and classical programming available on WSQG 90.9 FM, NPR/college programming on WEOS repeater 88.1 FM, and Christian music and talk Family Life Network on 88.9 FM.


Politically, the city's population has a significant tilt toward liberalism and the Democratic Party. A November, 2004 study by ePodunk lists it as New York's most liberal town.[16] This contrasts with the more conservative leanings of the surrounding Upstate New York region, and is also somewhat more liberal than the rest of Tompkins County. In 1988 Jesse Jackson received the most votes in Ithaca in the Democratic Presidential primary. In 2000 Ralph Nader received more votes for President than George W. Bush in the City of Ithaca,[17] and 11% county-wide.[18] In 2008, Barack Obama, running against New York State's Senator Hillary Clinton, won Tompkins County in the Democratic Presidential Primary, the only county that he won in New York State.[19] Obama went on to win Tompkins County (including Ithaca) by a wide margin of 41% over his opponent John McCain in the November 2008 election.

Local government

The name Ithaca designates two governmental entities in the area, the Town of Ithaca and the City of Ithaca.

The Town of Ithaca is one of the nine towns comprised by Tompkins County. (Towns in New York are something like townships in other states; every county outside New York City is subdivided into towns.) The City of Ithaca is surrounded by, but legally independent of, the Town. The Town of Ithaca contains the Village of Cayuga Heights, a small incorporated upper-middle class suburb located to the northeast of the City of Ithaca.

The City of Ithaca has a mayor-council government. The charter of the City of Ithaca provides for a full-time mayor and city judge, each independent and elected at large. Since 1995, the mayor has been elected to a four-year term, and since 1989, the city judge has been elected to a six-year term. Since 1983, the city has been divided into five wards, each electing two members to the city council, known as the Common Council, for staggered four-year terms.

The Town government consists of an executive, the Town Supervisor, elected to a four-year term, and a Town Council of five members also elected for terms of four years.

The majority of local property taxes are actually assessed by an entirely independent agency with entirely different borders, the Ithaca City School District.

City-Town consolidation

In December 2005, the City and Town governments began discussing opportunities for increased government consolidation, including the possibility of joining the two into a single entity. This topic had been previously discussed in 1963 and 1969.

The possibility of consolidation is controversial for Town residents who could be forced to pay higher taxes as they help shoulder the higher debt burden that the City has taken on. Some Town residents also worry that consolidation could lead to increased sprawl and traffic congestion. However, most of the Town's population is already concentrated in hamlets in proximity to the City's borders and Town residents take advantage of City amenities. Mayor Walter Lynn of the Village of Cayuga Heights (an affluent Ithaca suburb located in the Town) called consolidation discussion a "waste of time."[20]


Greater Ithaca

The term "Greater Ithaca" encompasses both the City and Town of Ithaca, as well as several smaller settled places within or adjacent to the Town:

The East Hill area of the city: Cornell University campus and Collegetown as seen from South Hill


Location of the Ithaca-Cortland CSA and its components:
  Ithaca Metropolitan Statistical Area
  Cortland Micropolitan Statistical Area

Ithaca is the larger principal city of the Ithaca-Cortland CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Ithaca metropolitan area (Tompkins County) and the Cortland micropolitan area (Cortland County),[21][22][23] which had a combined population of 145,100 at the 2000 census.[24]

As of the census[24] of 2000, there were 29,287 people, 10,287 households, and 2,962 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,360.9 people per square mile (2,071.0/km²). There were 10,736 housing units at an average density of 1,965.2 per square mile (759.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.97% White, 6.71% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 13.65% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.86% from other races, and 3.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.31% of the population.

There were 10,287 households out of which 14.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 19.0% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 71.2% were non-families. 43.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city the population was spread out with 9.2% under the age of 18, 53.8% from 18 to 24, 20.1% from 25 to 44, 10.6% from 45 to 64, and 6.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 102.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $21,441, and the median income for a family was $42,304. Males had a median income of $29,562 versus $27,828 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,408. About 13.2% of individuals and 4.2% of families were below the poverty line.



Ithaca is in the rural Finger Lakes region about 225 miles to the northwest of New York City; the nearest larger cities, Binghamton and Syracuse, are an hour's drive away by car, Rochester and Scranton are two hours, Buffalo is three.

Ithaca is served by Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, located about three miles to the northeast of the city center. US Airways Express offers flights to New York LaGuardia and its hub at Philadelphia using a mixture of small jets and propeller craft. Delta Air Lines provides thrice-daily jet service to its hub at Detroit Metro airport and Continental Connection offers three daily turboprop flights to Newark Liberty International Airport. Some residents choose to travel to Syracuse Hancock International Airport, Greater Binghamton Airport, Elmira-Corning Regional Airport or Greater Rochester International Airport for more airline service options.

Ithaca lies at over a half hour's drive from any interstate highway, and all car trips to Ithaca involve some driving on two-lane state rural highways. The city is at the convergence of many regional two-lane state highways: Routes 13, 13A, 34, 79, 89, 96, 96B, and 366. These are usually not congested except in Ithaca proper. There is frequent intercity bus service by Greyhound Lines, New York Trailways, and Shortline (Coach USA), particularly to Binghamton and New York City, with limited service to Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, and (via connections in Binghamton) to Utica and Albany. The bus station serving all these companies[25] is the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railway station on Meadow St. between W State and W Seneca streets, a little over half a mile west of downtown Ithaca.

Ithaca is the center of an extensive bus public transportation system — Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) — which carried 3.1 million passengers in 2005.[dead link][26] TCAT was reorganized as a non-profit corporation in 2004 and is primarily supported locally by Cornell University, the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County. TCAT operates 39 routes, many running seven days a week. It has frequent service to downtown, Cornell, Ithaca College, and the Pyramid Mall in the neighboring Town of Lansing, but less frequent service to many residential and rural areas, including Trumansburg and Newfield. Chemung County Transit runs weekday commuter routes into Schuyler and Chemung counties, and Tioga County Public Transit runs weekday routes into neighboring Tioga, primarily to serve Cornell employees who prefer to live in these rural counties, or are forced to because of the high house prices near Ithaca.

GADABOUT Transportation Services, Inc. provides demand-response paratransit service for seniors over 60 and people with disabilities. Ithaca Dispatch provides local and regional taxi service. In addition, Ithaca Airline Limousine and IthaCar Service connect to the local airports.

In July 2008, a non-profit called Ithaca Carshare began a carsharing service in Ithaca. Ithaca Carshare has a fleet of 15 vehicles shared by over 1150 members as of October 2011 and has become a popular service among both city residents and the college communities. Vehicles are located throughout Ithaca downtown and the two major institutions. With Ithaca Carshare as the first locally run carsharing organization in New York State, others have since launched in Buffalo and Syracuse.

Norfolk Southern freight trains reach Ithaca from Sayre, Pennsylvania, mainly to deliver coal to AES Cayuga, a coal power plant (known as Milliken Station during NYSEG ownership) and haul out salt from the Cargill salt mine, both on the east shore of Cayuga Lake. There is no passenger rail service, although from the 1870s through the 1950s there were trains to Buffalo via Geneva, New York; to New York City via Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (Lehigh Valley Railroad) and Scranton, Pennsylvania (DL&W); to Auburn, New York; and to the US northeast via Cortland, New York; service to Buffalo and New York City lasted until 1961.[27][28] The Lehigh Valley's top New York City-Ithaca-Buffalo passenger train, "The Black Diamond", was optimistically publicized as 'The Handsomest Train in the World', perhaps to compensate for its roundabout route to Buffalo. It was named after the railroad's largest commodity, anthracite coal.

Ithaca was the fourth community in New York state with a street railway; streetcars ran from 1887 to summer 1935.[29][30]

As a growing urban area, Ithaca is facing steady increases in levels of vehicular traffic on the city grid and on the state highways. Outlying areas have limited bus service, and many people consider a car essential. However, many consider Ithaca a walkable and bikeable community. One positive trend for the health of downtown Ithaca is the new wave of increasing urban density in and around the Ithaca Commons. Because the downtown area is the region's central business district, dense mixed-use development that includes housing may increase the proportion of people who can walk to work and recreation, and mitigate the likely increased pressure on already busy roads as Ithaca grows. The downtown area is also the area best served by frequent public transportation. Still, traffic congestion around the Commons is likely to progressively increase.

Unlike most urbanized areas in the United States, Ithaca does not have direct access to the Interstate highway system. In 1968, it was proposed to convert Route 13 from Horseheads to Cortland through Ithaca into a limited access highway (it is currently such for three miles heading north from Ithaca), but the plan lost local and State support.[citation needed]

Other recent changes and trends

Cascadilla Creek gorge, just south of the Cornell campus

For decades, the Ithaca Gun Company tested their shotguns behind the plant on Lake Street; the shot fell into Fall Creek (a tributary of Cayuga Lake) right at the base of Ithaca Falls. A major clean-up effort sponsored by the United States Superfund took place from 2002 to 2004.[31] After many years of debate and environmental concerns, the old Ithaca Gun building has been dismantled and is scheduled to be replaced by an apartment complex.

The former Morse Chain company factory on South Hill, now owned by Emerson Power Transmission, was the site of extensive groundwater and soil contamination.[32] Emerson Power Transmission has been working with the state and South Hill residents to determine the extent and danger of the contamination and aid in cleanup.


In addition to its liberal politics, Ithaca is commonly listed among the most culturally liberal of American small cities. The Utne Reader named Ithaca "America's most enlightened town" in 1997.[33] According to ePodunk's Gay Index, Ithaca has a score of 231, versus a national average score of 100.[34]

Like many small college towns, Ithaca has also received accolades for having a high overall quality of life. In 2004, Cities Ranked and Rated named Ithaca the best "emerging city" to live in the United States. In 2006, the Internet realty website "Relocate America" named Ithaca the fourth best city in the country to relocate to.[35] In July 2006, Ithaca was listed as one of the "12 Hippest Hometowns for Vegetarians" by VegNews Magazine and chosen by Mother Earth News as one of the "12 Great Places You've Never Heard Of."[36]

In its earliest years during frontier days, what is now Ithaca was briefly known by the names "The Flats" and "Sodom,"[3][37] the name of the Biblical city of sin, due to its reputation as a town of "notorious immorality",[38] a place of horse racing, gambling, profanity, Sabbath breaking, and readily available liquor. These names did not last long; Simeon DeWitt renamed the town Ithaca in the early 19th century, though nearby Robert H. Treman State Park still contains Lucifer Falls.

Points of interest

The falls of Buttermilk Falls State Park

For additional information about recreational trails see: Trails in Ithaca, New York.

Books set (at least partially) in Ithaca

Movies set or filmed (at least partially) in Ithaca

See also The Whartons Studio for films shot in Ithaca prior to 1920.

Notable residents and natives

This list is abridged from

See also

  • List of Registered Historic Places in New York


  1. ^ "History of Ithaca and Tompkins County". City of Ithaca. Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
  2. ^ "2007–08 facts" (PDF). Cornell University. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  3. ^ a b Carol Kammen. "History of Ithaca and Tompkins County". City of Ithaca.{480C93FC-88B9-4C3D-811D-BD7EE0E3F926}&DE={0F21E16C-E234-456D-8841-FF5C2F491300}. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Welcome to Namgyal! Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, New York, is the North American Seat of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Open to all, Namgyal offers authentic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in a traditional monastic setting.". Namgyal Monastery. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  6. ^ "Winter Weather". TompkinsREADY. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  7. ^ "NCDC: U.S. Climate Normals". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
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  10. ^ "Ithaca Farmers Market". 2009-05-16. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  11. ^ In Ithaca, 6,000 give peace a chance, The Post-Standard
  12. ^ "Women Swimmin' – Swimmer Information". 2008-05-25. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  13. ^ The Ithaca Journal "New intel in the sundae wars: IHS grads scoop up ice cream facts" June 26, 2007. Retrieved June 26, 2007.
  14. ^ The Official Website of the Ice Cream Sundae
  15. ^ "Two Rivers – The REAL Birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae". Two Rivers Economic Development. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  16. ^ ePodunk
  17. ^ Harlin, Kevin (2000-11-09). "Tompkins Greens express no regrets". Ithaca Journal: p. 1A. 
  18. ^ 2000 presidential general election results, New York State Board of Elections
  19. ^ 2008 presidential primary election results, New York State Board of Elections
  20. ^ Ithaca Times – A Greater Ithaca?
  21. ^ METROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENTS, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
  22. ^ MICROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENTS, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
  23. ^ COMBINED STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENT CORE BASED STATISTICAL AREAS, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
  24. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  25. ^ Ithaca Greyhound Station
  26. ^ "3 Million Bus Passengers and Counting as TCAT Sets Record in 2005", Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT), December 19, 2005. Retrieved March 24, 2006.
  27. ^ Lee, Hardy Campbell (2008) (2nd ed.; first ed. 1977) A History of Railroads in Tompkins County. Revised and enlarged by Winton Rossiter, maps by David Rossiter. Ithaca, NY: The History Center in Tompkins County
  28. ^ "Ithaca had its own 19th century railway rush", D G Rossiter, The Ithaca Journal, Centennial edition, Friday, 08-April-1988 . Last Accessed on 16-May-2010
  29. ^ Kerr, Richard D. (1972) The Ithaca Street Railway, Forty Fort, PA: Howard D. Cox
  30. ^ "Street cars preceded local bus lines", D G Rossiter, The Ithaca Journal, Centennial edition, Friday, 08-April-1988 . Last Accessed on 16-May-2010
  31. ^ "EPA Finishes $4.8 Million Cleanup at Ithaca Gun", United States Environmental Protection Agency, October 29, 2004. Retrieved March 25, 2006.
  32. ^ "Public Meeting – Emerson Power Transmission Environmental Investigation", New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. June 22, 2005. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
  33. ^ Jay Walljasper, Jon Spayde, Ithaca, New York: A Gritty upstate City Where the Grassroots are Green, "America's 10 Most Enlightened Towns (and we don't mean Santa Fe)", May/June 1997 Issue, UTNE Reader
  34. ^ "Ithaca Community Profile" Gays & Lesbians local index
  35. ^, "'s 2006 list of America's TOP 100 Places to Live." Available online [1]. Retrieved 4 April 2006.
  36. ^ Katherine Graham "Ithaca gets high marks from two earthy publications", July 28, 2006, The Ithaca Journal
  37. ^ Dr. James Sullivan, "The History of New York State", Book VII: "The Finger Lakes Region", Chapter VII: Tompkins County. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. (1927) Last Accessed on March 25, 2006.
  38. ^ See, e.g., 1811 article in local paper, at [2] or Town of Ithaca History project, available online (click on "History Project", then "Historical maps..." and finally "famous for its notorious immorality").

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