About Ithaca

For people who are new to Ithaca the article below does a great job describing the different neighborhoods of our lovely city. It was published in the March 19th 2014 edition of the Ithaca Times. The Ithaca Times is a great resource for local news and events.

Keep in mind that this article only discusses the different neighborhoods of downtown Ithaca and does not mention North Hill/Lansing area, East Hill, Caroline, Brooktondale or other neighboring communities. All of these towns are within 6 miles which is about a 10 minute drive from downtown Ithaca. There are many wonderful neighboring towns that surround downtown Ithaca. Don’t forget to consider housing in those areas as well.

If you have any questions feel free to use the email us and we will be more than happy to help you find what you are looking for.

 

NORTHSIDE

History

The port of Ithaca near the mouth of Cascadilla Creek was a marshy, unhealthy place for much of the 19th century. The first houses were built along Cascadilla Street and the first three blocks of Lake and First streets. The area was gradually drained and built on after the Civil War up to World War I. Before World War II it became a first stop for Hungarian, Italian and Jewish immigrants, and where people of color settled in Ithaca.

This was an industrial area of the city where, in addition to ethnic groceries, you could find scrap dealers, warehouses, and rail yards. But in the late 20th century the area became increasingly residential. The Ithaca Housing Association was founded in 1965, and by 1972 had redeveloped the area bounded by Hancock, Third, Madison, and Fifth streets in housing projects, which have been home to many South Asian immigrants since the late 1970s.

Characteristics

The streets laid out on grids with small lots, but they are now lined with mature trees, with the tree lawn frequently planted in perennials or even shrubs.

The predominance of single-family homes is interrupted by the Seven Tribes group home on Third Street and the duplexes of the housing projects. There are restaurants and other businesses along Meadow Street, extending into the neighborhood on Third and Franklin Streets. The former P&C on Hancock and First is now the locally-owned Neighborhood Pride supermarket.

Architecture

A lot of houses here display elements of Colonial, Greek Revival, various Victorian and cottage styles, often in a single house. Many of the older houses have been greatly altered by additions and renovations.

The most common types are Colonials—with two gables, forming a L that wraps around a porch that protects the front door—and cottages that differ from the Colonials in being more likely to be single-gabled and to be one-and-a-half stories.

Housing prices

North of Cascadilla Street including the Inlet Island and Fulton/Meadow corridor : median home price $216,911; median rent $899. South of Cascadilla Street: median home price $183,757.

School district

Beverly J. Martin Elementary School.

Community organizations

Northside Neighborhood Association runs the Northside Community Center at 625 Hancock Street (Phone: 277-6300). There is also a Washington Park Neighborhood Association.


 

FALL CREEK

History

Originally “Fall Creek Village” when it was appeared on an 1836 map of the village of Ithaca, the Fall Creek neighborhood is directly north of downtown, south and west of Rt. 13 and up against the east wall of the Cayuga Valley that rises up to Cayuga Heights and Cornell Heights. Although the area is almost entirely residential now, the eponymous creek was once the site of mills and foundries with only a few residences along Yates Street as late as 1866, as the land was originally swampy and wooded.

The population grew rapidly after 1870, as did the number of neighborhood businesses, with the number of grocery stores peaking in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The first schoolhouse opened on Queen Street in the 1860s. The first incarnation of Fall Creek Elemenary School was built in 1879. It was razed in 1966 before the present school building was constructed. Fall Creek Elementary narrowly averted closure in 2010.

Characteristics

Many of the larger houses in Fall Creek have been divided into apartments, but over the last decade there has been a resurgence in home-owning in the neighborhood. This mixture of post-collegiate and young family demographics has given rise to community events like PorchFest, a summer concert event.

Architecture

The houses here are generally larger than those in Northside and more exhibit a fuller complement of the features of a given style. It is rare to find whole neighborhoods full of houses of one era. Instead a Victorian will be surrounded by cottages, suggesting that a large lot was subsequently subdivided. The grander houses, including some exuberant Queen Annes and ornate Italianates, are often on the corners of blocks.

Housing prices

Fall Creek (including University Hill): median home price $307,627.

School district

Fall Creek Elementary School; Ithaca High School and Boynton Middle School are also located in the neighborhood.

Community organizations

Fall Creek Neighborhood Association has a Facebook page.


 

DOWNTOWN

History

For a century the downtown district was thriving with opera houses and department stores, dry-goods businesses and haberdasheries, along with civic structures and some of the finest private homes. Decline began in the 1950s as suburbanization and the “car culture” took people away from the urban center.

The Urban Renewal Agency was established in 1963, but at first tore down landmarks without renewing vitality. In 1967 the URA succeeded in attracting the Woolworth’s Department Store, which occupied the location now the site of the Tompkins County Public Library. They were also instrumental in pushing forward the development of Ithaca Commons, a pedestrian street designed by Anton Egner and Marv Adelman, and completed in 1974. It is presently being rebuilt with a new design and will be completed fall 2014.

Characteristics

The urban core of Ithaca, consisting of multistory masonry buildings, is very small, constituting only a few blocks bounded by Six Mile Creek on the south and east, Seneca Street on the north, and Geneva Street on the west. Apartments are available in the upper floors of some buildings and more new apartment buildings like Cayuga Place and Gateway Commons is planned.

Residents here have walking access to many amenities, but the only grocery store is Oasis a small whole foods market in the Dewitt Mall.

Architecture

The recent removal of the large trees on the Commons has revealed the restored façades of the 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings. Many different styles are represented, particularly along the north side of East State Street. Several buildings are Italianate, with very high narrow windows surmounted by elaborate moldings and prominent cornices held up by ornate brackets.

Downtown residential streets are a riot of styles, ranging from the columned Greek Revivals through a variety of Victorians and into cottage-style homes. The exteriors of Arts & Crafts era houses are marked by wide windows, a mixture of shingles, clapboard, and stucco sidings (sometimes with more than one on the same house), shallow hipped roofs, and ornamental leaded glass windows.

Housing prices

Median home price: $222,779.

School district

Beverly J. Martin Elementary School

Community organizations

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance (www.downtownithaca.com) is a primarily business group, but does pay attention to the concerns of residents.


 

WEST HILL

History

West Hill is across the Cayuga Inlet. It developed slowing in the 19th century, as it was on the far side of the rail yards, but by 1874 it had a grammar school. Large farms were subdivided into building lots after 1888. Municipal water was installed in 1908. The subdivisions that include most of the residences were built in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s.

The West Hill Civic Association was organized in the 1920s to lobby for storm sewers. The first housing project, West Village, was opened in 1972. Some residents worried that it would become a slum and moved away. In response to the potential dissipation of the community the West Hill Civic Association was resurrected and continues to exist to this day.

The present site of the Lehman Alternative Community School was the former West Hill Elementary School and served as the location of a series of private schools and day centers before its present use, which was inaugurated in 1983.

Characteristics

Easily the most bucolic of the city neighborhoods, West Hill consists of modest homes on relatively small lots. There are low-rise multi-unit housing projects on Chestnut St. (Chestnut Hill Apartments) and Elm Street (West Village).

There are no businesses at all on West Hill. Residents must drive or take public transportation to do all shopping.

Architecture

Because it was settled very late in the 19th century there are no Federal or Greek Revival houses, and very few Italianate or Gothic Revivals and is instead home to folk Victorians and post-Victorian styles like Foursquares, bungalows, and Colonial Revivals. The higher on the hill the more modern the styles tend.

Housing prices

Median home price $216,911.

School district

Beverly J. Martin Elementary School

Community organizations

West Hill Civic Association has a Yahoo Group listserv (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WestHillCivicAssociation/)


 

COLLEGETOWN

History

Because of the usefulness of Cascadilla Creek as a source of water power, the area that is now Collegetown was settled early in Ithaca’s history. In 1827 Otis Eddy built a cotton mill near the street that now bears his name. The mill was torn down to make way for Cascadilla Place in 1868, the first building of Cornell University, which still stands behind the parking garage.

After electric trolley service connected East Hill with downtown in 1893 Collegetown began to become less bucolic. Small businesses sprang up to serve the student population and homeowners began to provide housing for the students. Fires on East Hill were common because many of the students lit their rooms with kerosene lamps. In 1905 a firehouse was built in Collegetown, now the site of “The Nines” bar and club. In the 1910s wooden rooming houses on College Avenue were replaced with concrete buildings.

Characteristics

The commercial district on College Avenue, Dryden Road, and Stewart Avenue is increasingly urban, composed of multistory masonry buildings ranging from late Victorian to early 21st century in style. Parking is (and always has been) a problem.

Architecture

The residential areas of central Collegetown consist of large wooden Arts & Crafts era homes with some Victorians (not a few of them brick) homes that have been divided up into apartments. Lower Collegetown includes more single-family homes with larger yards around them. Many of them are large versions of Shingle Victorian, Foursquare or cottage-styles.

The homes of Lower East Hill are among the grandest in the city. There are many Queen Annes—both frame and brick—Second Empire and other ornate Victorian styles. Some of the former carriage houses are substantial enough to have been converted to dwellings.

Housing prices

Lower Collegetown (bounded by E. Seneca, Catherine and Linden): $222,779. Lower East Hill (bounded by E. Seneca, Stewart and Fall Creek): $176,729. Central Collegetown: $246,224.

School district

Belle Sherman Elementary School

Community organizations

Collegetown Neighborhood Council is active in the zoning and planning discussions with the city government.


 

BELLE SHERMAN

History

Mitchell Street, which runs through the middle of this neighborhood, is named for a New Jersey-born man who moved here from Canada in 1802. James Mitchell and his family farmed the area around the street that bears his name and Cornell Street. The “Mitchell tract” was subdivided by the 1890s, and although there was little immediate development, in the early 20th century building began in earnest. The Bryant farm, immediately east of Collegetown was subdivided in 1908 and houses began going up. Deed restrictions and what is now known as “red lining” kept the area white and affluent. Most of the families were associated with Cornell. By 1923 the Bryant Park Civic Association had formed and by 1931 was combating traffic and parking problems that persist to this day.

Belle Sherman School opened in 1926. In 1983 it merged with Henry St. John School, which had served one of Ithaca’s poorer neighborhoods, making the formerly uniformly affluent student body much more diverse.

In Belle Sherman development continued after World War II with single family homes being common in the 1950s and ‘60s, and then a transition to apartment and townhouse complexes in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Characteristics

A suburban landscape reminiscent of parts of Westchester County or eastern Massachusetts. Residents must drive to all shopping, but East Hill Plaza on Pine Tree Road has all necessities, so a trek to Rt. 13 can be avoided.

Architecture

The houses are mostly cottage-style (some are actual Craftsman bungalows), but with many late Victorian homes that incorporate Arts & Crafts elements like leaded stained-glass windows and unpainted oak front doors with wrought iron fixtures.

In lower Belle Sherman the houses are of more recent vintage with many post-World War II Neocolonials and Cape cottages and a few truly Modern homes.

Housing prices

South of Mitchell Street: $218,251. North of Mitchell Street: $270,180.

School district

Belle Sherman Elementary School

Community organizations

The Belle Sherman Elementary School has an active PTA (www.bspta.org).


 

SOUTH HILL

History

Thickly covered in trees and separated from downtown by Six Mile Creek, South Hill was settled long after the rest of Ithaca. The hill is so steep that in the early 19th century railroad cars had to be pulled up it one at a time before the train made its way to Owego. A permanent school building was not built in this neighborhood until 1907 when a brick structure was erected on Hudson Street. Ithaca College moved out of downtown to its South Hill campus in the early 1960s.

The most prominent industry on South Hill was Morse Chain, which moved there from Trumansburg in 1906. In 1929 it became part of Borg-Warner and expanded steadily through the 20th century. A spin-off of Morse Chain that made adding machines was purchased by National Cash Register (NCR) in 1943, making the transition to computer manufacturing in 1972.

Characteristics

South Hill becomes less densely settled as you go up Hudson Street. At the base of Hudson there are many houses divided into apartments, but at the top of the hill you will find large single-family homes on spacious lots. Immediately north of Ithaca College there are a number of two-story housing projects of ranch-style or modern block block buildings surrounded by large lawns.

There are few walkable amenities aside from Rogan’s Corner convenience store.

Architecture

The houses are an eclectic range of Arts & Crafts era cottage styles with some late Victorians—Queen Annes and Italianates—that tend to be smaller than elsewhere in the city.

Housing prices

Most of South Hill: $215,674. Along Spencer Road: $38,299.

School district

South Hill Elementary School

Community organizations

South Hill Civic Association has been part of the discussions with the city and Emerson Power Transmission to remediate TCE pollution in the ground downhill from the closed down plant.


 

SOUTHSIDE

History

Southside is today home to the largest part of the African-American population of Ithaca and this has also been the case historically, in part because of the presence of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Cleveland Avenue, the oldest church in Ithaca.

While the black population was concentrated at the northern part of the neighborhood, the portion from Six Mile Creek south was developed by Charles Titus, who had made his money in the Pennsylvania oil boom of the 1860s. The area was marshy, so Titus filled in the creek meanders and put it in the channel that parallels the road that still bears his name.

The first tract housing in Ithaca was built on “Titus Flats” by Andrew Cameron Hyers, who constructed 90 houses between 1904 and 1929.

The Southside Community Center was founded in 1930 and the present structure on South Plain Street was built as a WPA project in 1938.

The first Titus Towers building was constructed with federal HUD money in 1972 and the second was finished in 1984 as affordable housing for the elderly and the disabled.

Characteristics

The neighborhood north of Six Mile Creek is a mixture of single-family and multi-unit homes on tree-lined streets. It is immediately adjacent to downtown amenities. South of the creek is more predominantly single-family homes on small lots. The housing stock is newer as one moves away from the city core. There is a large park with skateboard ramps and basketball courts along Meadow Street/Rt. 13. The big box stores along Rt. 13 are in easy walking range.

Architecture

Some of the oldest extant houses in the city are in Southside. Small Greek Revivals and actual Colonials (not revivals) line Cleveland Avenue.

The Henry St. John Historic District was designated in February 2013. It includes several Stick, Queen Anne, Italianate, and Second Empire Victorians. Bungalows and cottages have been built as the lots were subdivided.

Titus Flats, south of Six Mile Creek, is much more recent and includes mostly cottage styles, Colonial Revivals and even some ranch house with attached garages .

Housing prices

Southside (north of Six Mile Creek): $1,750,423 (obviously skewed by a single sale). Titus Flats (south of Six Mile Creek): $204,624.

School district

Belle Sherman or Fall Creek Elementary School

Community organizations

Southside Community Center (sscc-ithaca.org) is at 35 South Plain Street (273-4190). More local organizations include the Henry St. John Neighborhood Association, the Cleveland Avenue Neighborhood Diversity Association, the South of the Creek Neighborhood Association, the Spencer Road Neighborhood Association and the Titus Towers Tenant Council.


 

REFERENCES

Historical information from Ithaca’s Neighborhoods: the Rhine, the Hill and the Goose Pasture, ed. Carol U. Sisler, Dewitt Historical Society, 1988.

Housing prices are from www.city-data.com and are for 2010.

School district information is available from the Registrar’s page at the website of the Ithaca City School District (www.icsd.k12.ny.us)

 

 

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