Ithaca, New York

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This article is about the city of Ithaca. For the legally distinct town, see Ithaca (town), New York. For other uses, see Ithaca (disambiguation).
From top left: Ithaca during winter, Ithaca during autumn, Cornell University, Ithaca Commons (downtown), Hemlock Gorge in Ithaca, Ithaca Falls
From top left: Ithaca during winter, Ithaca during autumn, Cornell University, Ithaca Commons (downtown), Hemlock Gorge in Ithaca, Ithaca Falls
Ithaca is located in New York
Coordinates: 42°26′36″N 76°30′0″W / 42.44333°N 76.50000°W / 42.44333; -76.50000Coordinates: 42°26′36″N 76°30′0″W / 42.44333°N 76.50000°W / 42.44333; -76.50000
Country United States
US state New York
County Tompkins
Founded 1790
Incorporated 1888
 • Mayor Svante Myrick (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 5,364/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 /ˈɪθəkə/ is in central New York and is the county seat of Tompkins County, as well as the largest community in the Ithaca-Tompkins County metropolitan area. This contains the municipalities of the Town of Ithaca, the village of Cayuga Heights, and other towns and villages in Tompkins County. The city of Ithaca is located on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, in Central New York. It is named for the Greek island of Ithaca.[1]

Ithaca is home to Cornell University, an Ivy League school of over 20,000 students, most of whom study at its local campus.[2] Ithaca College is located just south of the city in the Town of Ithaca, adding to the area's "college town" atmosphere. Nearby is Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3).[3] These three colleges bring tens of thousands of students who increase Ithaca's seasonal population during the school year. Some students settle in the area after graduation. The city's voters are notably more liberal than those in the remainder of Tompkins County or in upstate New York, generally voting for Democratic Party candidates.

In 2010, the city's population was 30,014, and the metropolitan area had a population of 101,564. Some students have become more politically active in the city. In 2004, Gayraud Townsend, a 20-year-old senior in Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, was sworn in as alderman of the city council, the first black male to be elected to the council and the youngest African American to be elected to office in the United States.[4] He served his full term and has mentored other student politicians.[5] In 2011 Cornell Class of 2009 graduate Svante Myrick was elected as the youngest mayor of the city of Ithaca.[6]

Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca is the North American seat of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.[7]


Early history[edit]

Cascadilla Creek gorge

Indigenous people occupied this area for thousands of years. At the time of European contact, this area was controlled by the Cayuga Indians, one of the powerful Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois League. Jesuit missionaries from New France (Quebec) are said to have had a mission to the Cayuga as early as 1657.[8]

Saponi and Tutelo Indians, Algonquian-speaking tribes, later occupied lands at the south end of Cayuga Lake. Dependent tributaries of the Cayuga, they had been permitted to settle on the tribe's hunting lands at the south end of Cayuga Lake, as well as in Pony (originally Sapony) Hollow of what is known as present-day Newfield, New York. Remnants of these tribes had been forced from North Carolina by tribal conflicts and European colonial encroachment.[8] Similarly, the Tuscarora people, an Iroquoian-speaking tribe from the Carolinas, migrated after defeat in the Yamasee War; they settled with the Oneida people and became the sixth nation of the Haudenosaunee, with chiefs stating the migration was complete in 1722.

During the Revolutionary War, four of the then six Iroquois nations were allied with the British, although bands made decisions on fighting in a highly decentralized way. Conflict with the rebel colonists was fierce throughout the Mohawk Valley and western New York. In retaliation for conflicts to the east, the 1779 Sullivan Expedition was conducted against the Iroquois peoples in the west of the state, destroying more than 40 villages and stored winter crops.[9] It destroyed the Tutelo village of Coregonal, located near what is now the junction of state routes 13 and 13A just south of the Ithaca city limits. Most Iroquois were forced from the state after the Revolutionary War, but some remnants remained. The state sold off the former Iroquois lands to stimulate development and settlement by European Americans; lands were also granted as payment to veterans of the war.

Within the current boundaries of the City of Ithaca, Native Americans maintained only a temporary hunting camp at the base of Cascadilla Gorge. In 1788 eleven men from Kingston, New York came to the area with two Delaware people (Lenape) guides, to explore what they considered wilderness. The following year Jacob Yaple, Isaac Dumond, and Peter Hinepaw returned with their families and constructed log cabins.[8] That same year Abraham Bloodgood of Albany obtained a patent from the state for 1400 acres, which included all of the present downtown west of Tioga Street.[10] In 1790, the federal government and state began an official program to grant land in the area, known as the Central New York Military Tract, as payment for service to the American soldiers of the Revolutionary War, as the government was cash poor. Most local land titles trace back to these Revolutionary war grants.

Partition of the Military Tract[edit]

As part of this process, the Central New York Military Tract, which included northern Tompkins County, was surveyed by Simeon DeWitt, Bloodgood's son-in-law. DeWitt was also the nephew of Governor George Clinton. The Commissioners of Lands of New York State (chairman Gov. George Clinton) met in 1790. The Military Tract township in which proto-Ithaca was located was named the Town of Ulysses. A few years later DeWitt moved to Ithaca, then called variously "The Flats," "The City," or "Sodom";[11] he renamed it for the Greek island home of Ulysses in the spirit of the multitude of settlement names in the region derived from classical literature, such as Aurelius, Ovid, and especially of Ulysses, New York, the town that contained Ithaca at the time.[9]

Around 1791 DeWitt surveyed was is now the present downtown area into lots and sold them at modest prices. That same year John Yaple built a grist mill on Cascadilla Creek. The first frame house was erected in 1800 by Abram Markle.[8] In 1804 the village had a postmaster, and in 1805 a tavern.[12]


State Street in Ithaca, ca. 1901

Ithaca became a transshipping point for salt from curing beds near Salina, New York to buyers south and east. This prompted construction in 1810 of the Owego Turnpike.[12] When the War of 1812 cut off access to Nova Scotia gypsum, used for fertilizer, Ithaca became the center of trade in Cayuga gypsum.[10] The Cayuga Steamboat Company was organized in 1819 and in 1820 launched the first steamboat on Cayuga Lake, the Enterprise.[10] In 1821, the village was incorporated at the same time the Town of Ithaca was organized and separated from the parent Town of Ulysses. In 1834, the Ithaca and Owego Railroad's first horse-drawn train began service,[9] connecting traffic on the east-west Erie Canal (completed in 1825) with the Susquehanna River to the south to expand the trade network.

With the depression of 1837, the railroad was re-organized as the Cayuga & Susquehanna. It was re-engineered with switchbacks in the late 1840s; much of this route in the late 20th century was converted to trails under the Rails to Trails program; it is used by the South Hill Recreation Way.

However, easier railroad routes were constructed, such as that of the Syracuse, Binghamton & New York (1854). In the decade following the Civil War, railroads were built from Ithaca to surrounding points (Geneva; Cayuga; Cortland; and Elmira, New York; and Athens, Pennsylvania), mainly with financing from Ezra Cornell. The geography of the city, on a steep hill by the lake, has prevented it from being directly connected to a major transportation artery. When the Lehigh Valley Railroad built its main line from Pennsylvania to Buffalo, New York 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.

Ithaca Gun Co. - Annie Oakley gun, 1916

In the late 19th century, more industry developed in Ithaca. In 1883 William Henry Baker and his partners started the Ithaca Gun Company, making shotguns. The original factory was located in the Fall Creek neighborhood of the city, on a slope later known as Gun Hill, where the nearby waterfall supplied the main source of energy for the plant. The company became an icon in the hunting and shooting world, its shotguns famous for their fine decorative work. Wooden gunstocks with knots or other imperfections were donated to the high school woodworking shop to be made into lamps.[13] John Philip Sousa and trick-shooter Annie Oakley favored Ithaca guns. In 1937 the company began producing the Ithaca 37, based on a 1915 patent by noted firearms designer John Browning. Its 12-gauge shotguns were the standard used for decades by the New York Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department.[14]

In 1885, Ithaca Children's Home was established on West State Street. The orphanage had two programs at the time: a residential home for both orphaned and destitute children, and a day nursery.[15] The village established its first trolley in 1887. Ithaca developed as a small manufacturing and retail center and was incorporated as a city in 1888. The largest industrial company 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.

Ithaca claims creation of the first ice cream sundae in 1891 by local fountain shop owner Chester Platt and Unitarian reverend John Scott on April 3, 1892, but this has been debated.[11][16] The local Unitarian church, where Rev. Scott preached, has an annual "Sundae Sunday" every September in commemoration.

In 1903 a typhoid epidemic, resulting from poor sanitation infrastructure, devastated the city. One out of 10 citizens fell ill or died.

In 1900 Cornell anatomy professor G.S. Moler made an early movie using frame-by-frame technology. For The Skeleton Dance, he took single-frame photos of a human skeleton in varying positions, giving the illusion of a dancing skeleton. During the early 20th century, Ithaca was an important center in the silent film industry. These films often featured the local natural scenery. Many of these films were the work of Leopold Wharton and his brother Theodore; their studio was on the site of what is now Stewart Park.[11]

The Star Theatre on East Seneca Street was built in 1911 and became the most popular vaudeville venue in the region. Wharton movies were also filmed and shown there.[17] After the film industry centralized in Hollywood, production in Ithaca effectively ceased. Few of the silent films made in Ithaca have been preserved.

After World War II, the Langmuir Research Labs of General Electric developed as a major employer; the defense industry continued to expand. GE's headquarters were based in Schenectady, New York, to the east in the Mohawk Valley.

Recent history[edit]

A view of the shops and businesses on the Ithaca Commons.

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) at the base of Ithaca Falls. Lead contaminated the water supply, air and land. A major lead clean-up effort sponsored by the United States Superfund took place from 2002 to 2004, managed through the Environmental Protection Agency.[18] The old Ithaca Gun building has been dismantled. It is scheduled to be replaced by development of an apartment complex on the cleaned land.

The former Morse Chain company factory on South Hill, now owned by Emerson Power Transmission, was the site of extensive groundwater and soil contamination from its industrial operations.[19] 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.

Geography and climate[edit]

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

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. Winters are long, cold, and snowy, with temperatures reaching 0 °F (−18 °C) or lower on an average 9.9 nights annually and an average of 67 in (170 cm) of snow per season. The largest snowfall in one day was 26.0 in (66 cm) on February 14, 1914. Summers are warm and humid, with usually comfortable temperatures. Readings of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher occur on an average of just 5.2 days per year, and 100 °F (38 °C)+ temperatures have only occurred ten times since record-keeping began in 1893. The average date of the first freeze is October 5, and the average date of the last freeze is May 15, giving Ithaca a growing season of 141 days. The average date of the first and last snowfalls are November 12 and April 7, respectively. Extreme temperatures range from −25 °F (−32 °C) as recently as February 2, 1961 up to 103 °F (39 °C) on July 9, 1936.[20]

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.[21]

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 similar to the Rhine Valley wine district of Germany. As such the region is home to many wineries.


Cornell University from McGraw Tower

The two major postsecondary educational institutions located in Ithaca were each founded in the late nineteenth century. In 1865, Ezra Cornell founded Cornell University, which overlooks the town from East Hill. It was opened as a coeducational institution. 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 area, but relocated to South Hill in the 1960s.

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

Ithaca is a major educational center in Central New York. In 2011 there were about 21,000 students enrolled at Cornell and about 6,400 at Ithaca College.[23] Tompkins Cortland Community College is located in the neighboring Town of Dryden, and has an extension center in downtown Ithaca. Empire State College offers non-traditional college courses to adults in downtown Ithaca.

The public school system is based in 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. Several private elementary and secondary schools are located in the Ithaca area, including the Roman Catholic Immaculate Conception School, the Cascadilla School, the New Roots Charter School, the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School, and the Ithaca Waldorf School. Ithaca has two networks for supporting its home-schooling families: Loving Education At Home (LEAH) and the Northern Light Learning Center (NLLC).


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

Ithaca has tried to maintain its traditional downtown shopping area with its pedestrian orientation; this includes the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall and Center Ithaca, a small mixed-use complex built at the end of the urban renewal era. 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. It is primarily frequented by Cornell University students.

Ithaca has many of the businesses characteristic of small American university towns: bookstores, art house cinemas, craft stores, and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. The collective Moosewood Restaurant, founded in 1973, published a number of vegetarian cookbooks.[11] Bon Appetit magazine ranked it among the thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th century.[citation needed] Ithaca has many local restaurants and chains both in the city and town with a range of ethnic foods. It has become a destination and residence for retirees, and Cornell has programs to appeal to them.

The Ithaca Farmers Market, a cooperative with 150 vendors who live within 30 miles of Ithaca, first opened for business on Saturdays in 1973. It is located at Steamboat Landing, where steamboats from Cayuga Lake used to dock.[24]

The South Hills Business Campus originally opened in 1957 as the regional headquarters of the National Cash Register Company. Running three full factory shifts, NCR was a major employer. Although it was sold in 1991 to American Telephone and Telegraph and later acquired by Cognitive TPG, TPG remains a major tenant of the South Hill Business Campus, which is now owned by a group of private investors.[25]


Cayuga Street at Green Street in downtown Ithaca.

Founded in 1983, the Sciencenter, is a non-profit hands-on science museum, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) and Association of Children’s Museums (ACM).[26]

The Cayuga Nature Center occupies the site of the 1914 Cayuga Preventorium, a facility for children with tuberculosis; treatment of what was then considered an incurable disease was based on rest and good nutrition. In 1981, the Cayuga Nature Center was incorporated as an independent, private, non-profit educational organization, offering environmental education to local school districts.[27]

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is located in the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity. The Lab's Visitors' Center and observation areas are open to the public. Displays include a surround sound theater, object-theater presentation, sound studio, and informational kiosks featuring bird sounds and information.[28]

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art houses one of the finest collections of art in upstate New York.[29] Special exhibitions are mounted each year, plus selections from a global permanent collection, which is displayed on six public floors. The collection includes art from throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, graphic arts, medallic art, and Tiffany glass, ranging from the ancient to the contemporary.[29]

The Center for the Arts at Ithaca, Inc., operates the "Hangar Theatre". Opened in 1975 in a renovated municipal airport hangar, the "Hangar Theatre" brings a range of theatre to students across New York State. It produces a School Tour and Artists-in-the-Schools programs.[30] Ithaca is also the home to Kitchen Theatre Company, a non-profit professional theatre company located in the West End of the downtown.

Ithaca is noted for its annual community celebration, The Ithaca Festival. 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.[citation needed]

The city and town also sponsor The Apple Festival in the fall, the Chili Fest in February, the Finger Lakes International Dragon Boat Festival in July; Porchfest in late September, and the Ithaca Brew Fest in Stewart Park in September.

Ithaca has also pioneered the Ithaca Health Fund, a popular cooperative health insurance. Ithaca is home to one of the United States' first local currency systems, Ithaca Hours, developed by Paul Glover.


Ithaca is the home of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra.

The School of Music at Ithaca College was originally founded in 1892 by William Egbert as a music conservatory. Among the degree programs offered are those in Performance, Theory, and Composition. Since 1941, the School of Music has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.[31]

Ithaca's Suzuki school, Ithaca Talent Education, provides musical training for children of all ages and also teacher training for undergraduate and graduate-level students. The Community School of Music and Art uses an extensive scholarship system to offer classes and lessons to any student, regardless of age, background, economic status, or artistic ability.[32]

Several notable musicians call Ithaca home, most notably Samite of Uganda, The Burns Sisters, John Brown's Body, Kevin Kinsella, and X Ambassadors. 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. The Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance is held annually during the third week in July, in the nearby village of Trumansburg.


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

The Ithaca Journal, founded 1815, is a morning daily newspaper owned by Gannett. 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, one of the oldest student newspapers in the United States.

Ithaca is home to several radio stations.

  • WICB 91.7 FM is a non-commercial, student-run station owned by Ithaca College.
  • WPIE 1160 AM/107.1 FM "ESPN Ithaca" is a sports talk station locally owned by Taughannock Media.
  • The Cayuga Radio Group, a subsidiary of Saga Communications, Inc., owns country WQNY "Q-Country" 103.7 FM.
  • WVBR-FM 93.5 FM/105.5 FM, is a student-owned and student-run station with ties to Cornell University.
  • WYXL "Lite Rock" 97.3 FM
  • news/talk WHCU 870 AM
  • progressive talk WNYY 1470 AM
  • classic rock "I-100" WIII 99.9 FM.

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. NPR and classical programming is available on WSQG 90.9 FM, NPR/college programming on WEOS 'repeater' 88.1 FM, and Christian music on 88.9 FM.

Local government[edit]

There are 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 comprising Tompkins County. The City of Ithaca is surrounded by, but legally independent of, the Town.

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 elects two representatives to the city council, known as the Common Council, for staggered four-year terms. In March 2015, the Common Council unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing freedom from domestic violence as a fundamental human right.[33]

Since students won the right to vote where they attend colleges, some have become more active in local politics. In 2004, Gayraud Townsend, a 20-year-old senior in Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, was sworn in as alderman of the city council, representing the 4th Ward. He is the first black male to be elected to the council and was then the youngest African American to be elected to office in the United States.[4] He served his full term and has mentored other young student politicians.[5] In 2011 Cornell undergraduate Svante Myrick was elected as the youngest mayor of the city of Ithaca.[6]

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.


Politically, the majority of city's voters (many of them students) have supported liberalism and the Democratic Party. A November 2004 study by ePodunk lists it as New York's most liberal city.[34] This contrasts with the more conservative leanings of the generally rural Upstate New York region; the city's voters are also more liberal than those in the rest of Tompkins County. In 2008, Barack Obama, running against New York State's US Senator Hillary Clinton, won Tompkins County in the Democratic Presidential Primary, the only county that he won in New York State, likely due to support from younger voters.[35] Obama won Tompkins County (including Ithaca) by a wide margin of 41% over his opponent John McCain in the November 2008 election.


Greater Ithaca[edit]

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:


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 8,462
1880 9,105 7.6%
1890 11,079 21.7%
1900 13,136 18.6%
1910 14,802 12.7%
1920 17,004 14.9%
1930 20,708 21.8%
1940 19,730 −4.7%
1950 29,257 48.3%
1960 28,732 −1.8%
1970 26,226 −8.7%
1980 28,799 9.8%
1990 29,541 2.6%
2000 29,287 −0.9%
2010 30,014 2.5%
Est. 2014 30,720 [36] 2.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[37]
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),[38][39][40] which had a combined population of 145,100 at the 2000 census.[41]

As of the census[41] 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, 13.65% Asian, 6.71% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 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.



A TCAT bus

Ithaca is in the rural Finger Lakes region about 225 miles (362 km) 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 and Albany are three. New York City, Philadelphia, and Ottawa are about four hours away. Cleveland, Boston, Washington DC, and Montreal are about five hours away.

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. However, Route 79 between the I-81 access at Whitney Point and Ithaca receives a significant amount of Ithaca-bound congestion right before Ithaca's colleges reopen after breaks.

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[42] 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. Cornell University runs a premium Campus to Campus bus between its Ithaca campus and its medical school in New York City which is open to the public.

Ithaca is the center of an extensive bus public transportation network. TCAT, Inc (Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc.) is a not-for-profit corporation that provides public transportation for Tompkins County New York. 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's ridership increased from 2.7 million in 2004 to 4.4 million in 2013. TCAT operates 33 routes, many running seven days a week. It has frequent service to downtown, Cornell, Ithaca College, and the Shops at Ithaca Mall in the neighboring Town of Lansing, but less frequent service to many residential and rural areas, including Trumansburg and Newfield. Chemung County Transit (C-TRAN) runs weekday commuter service from Chemung County to Ithaca. Cortland Transit runs commuter service to Cornell University. Tioga County Public Transit operates three routes to Ithaca and Cornell, but will cease operating on November 30, 2014.

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 vehicles shared by over 1500 members as of July 2015 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, Albany, NY, and Syracuse. Independent studies have shown that for each Ithaca Carshare vehicle in the fleet, 15 fewer personally owner cars are owned.[citation needed]

Rideshare services to promote carpooling and vanpooling are operated by ZIMRIDE and VRIDE. A community mobility education program, Way2Go is operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Way2Go's website provides consumer information and videos. Way2Go works collaboratively to help people save money, stress less, go green and improve mobility options.[43] The 2-1-1 Tompkins/Cortland Help line connects people with services, including transportation, in the community, by telephone and web on a 24/7 basis. The information and referral service is operated by the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County, Inc. Together, 2-1-1 Information and Referral and Way2Go are a one-call, one-click resource designed to mobility services information for Ithaca and throughout Tompkins County.

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.


Delta Connection Bombardier CRJ-200
United Express Bombardier Dash 8

Ithaca is served by Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, located about three miles to the northeast of the city center. American Airlines offers flights to its hub at Philadelphia, operated by Piedmont Airlines using de Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprop airliners. Delta Connection provides service to its hub at Detroit Metro airport, operated by Endeavor Air using Bombardier CRJ-200 airliners. United Express offers three daily flights to Newark Liberty International Airport, operated by CommutAir using Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops. 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.


A Norfolk Southern locomotive

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.[44][45] 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.[46][47]


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.[48] According to ePodunk's Gay Index, Ithaca has a score of 231, versus a national average score of 100.[49]

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.[50] 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."[51]

In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. by U.S. News.[52]

Ithaca was also ranked 13th among America's Best College Towns by Travel + Leisure in 2013[53] and ranked as the #1 Best College Town in America in the American Institute for Economic Research's 2013-2014 College Destination Index.[54]

In its earliest years during frontier days, what is now Ithaca was briefly known by the names "The Flats" and "Sodom,"[2][55][56] the name of the Biblical city of sin, due to its reputation as a town of "notorious immorality",[57] 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[edit]

The falls of Buttermilk Falls State Park
F.R. Newman Arboretum, Cornell University
For additional information about recreational trails, see Trails in Ithaca, New York.

In popular culture[edit]


Movies/TV show[edit]

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

Notable people[edit]

Sister city[edit]

Country City County/District/Province/Region/State Date
 Kenya Eldoret Uasin Gishu County 2007 [58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 167. 
  2. ^ a b Carol Kammen. "History of Ithaca and Tompkins County". City of Ithaca. Retrieved 2007-08-16. [dead link]
  3. ^ "TC3 - Tompkins Cortland Community College". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  4. ^ a b [ "Gayraud Townsend"], Young Elected Officials Network, Inaugural National Convening, Washington, DC, January 13-15,2006, People of the American Way Foundation
  5. ^ a b Susan Hoffman, "The Sun Speaks to Gayraud Townsend '05", Cornell Sun blog, 2 May 2007, accessed 14 September 2014
  6. ^ a b Teri Weaver, "Svante Myrick: How a child of modest means became Ithaca's youngest mayor-elect",, 20 November 2011, accessed 14 September 2014
  7. ^ "Namgyal Monastery". Institute of Buddhist Studies. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  8. ^ a b c d History of the First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca, Andrus & Church, 1904
  9. ^ a b c "Ithaca: History", The DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County Library & Archive
  10. ^ a b c Snodderly, Daniel R., "Ithaca and its Past", DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1982
  11. ^ a b c d "Facts & Trivia About Ithaca", Ithaca, New York and Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau
  12. ^ a b Kammen, Carol. Ithaca: A Brief History, The History Press, 2011, ISBN 9781614230670
  13. ^ Johnson, Kirk. "Ithaca Journal; Sweet Fishing and a Gorgeous Gorge, if You Don't Mind All That Old Lead", The New York Times, 15 October 2000
  14. ^ Associate Press (June 30, 1982). "Ithaca Gun Co. Has Thai Order". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "History", Family & Children's Service of Ithaca
  16. ^ "Ithaca's Gift to the World",
  17. ^ Simmons-Lynch, Julie. "Ithaca and the Silver Screen", Wharton Studio Museum
  18. ^ "EPA Finishes $4.8 Million Cleanup at Ithaca Gun", United States Environmental Protection Agency, October 29, 2004. Retrieved March 25, 2006.
  19. ^ "Public Meeting – Emerson Power Transmission Environmental Investigation", New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. June 22, 2005. Retrieved December 6, 2008. Archived October 8, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". NOAA. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  21. ^ "Winter Weather". TompkinsREADY. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  22. ^ "ITHACA CORNELL UNIV, NEW YORK – Climate Summary". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  23. ^ "Cornell University : Enrollments by College : Ithaca Campus - Fall 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  24. ^ "History", Ithaca Farmers' Market
  25. ^ Heffner, Mary C., "History of the South Hill Business Campus"
  26. ^ "About us", Sciencenter
  27. ^ "Cayuga Nature Center", Paleontological Research Institution
  28. ^ Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  29. ^ a b Johnson Museum of Art
  30. ^ "Mission & History", Hangar Theatre
  31. ^ Ithaca College School of Music
  32. ^ "About CSMA", Community School of Music and Arts
  33. ^ Hill, David. "City: Freedom from domestic violence is a human right". Ithaca Journal. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  34. ^ "Most liberal places in America". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  35. ^ "2008 presidential general election results" (PDF). New York State Board of Elections. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  36. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  38. ^ [1], Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-08-01. Archived March 7, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ [2], Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-08-01. Archived March 23, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ [3], Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2008-08-01. Archived April 3, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  42. ^ "Ithaca, NY". 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  43. ^ "Cornell Cooperative Extension | Way2Go". 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  44. ^ 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
  45. ^ "Ithaca had its own 19th century railway rush", D G Rossiter, The Ithaca Journal, Centennial edition, Friday, 08-April-1988. Last Accessed on 24-August-2014
  46. ^ Kerr, Richard D. (1972) The Ithaca Street Railway, Forty Fort, PA: Howard D. Cox
  47. ^ "Street cars preceded local bus lines", D G Rossiter, The Ithaca Journal, Centennial edition, Friday, 08-April-1988 . Last Accessed on 24-August-2014
  48. ^ 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
  49. ^ "Ithaca Community Profile" Gays & Lesbians local index
  50. ^, "'s 2006 list of America's TOP 100 Places to Live." Available online [4]. Retrieved 4 April 2006. Archived July 18, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ Katherine Graham "Ithaca gets high marks from two earthy publications"[dead link], July 28, 2006, The Ithaca Journal
  52. ^ "The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012 - US News". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  53. ^ Collins, Beth (2013-11-26). "America's Best College Towns 2013 | Travel + Leisure". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  54. ^ American Institute for Economic Research - College Destination Index 2013-2014: Ithaca, NY at the Wayback Machine (archived May 20, 2014)
  55. ^ [5] Archived December 5, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  56. ^ [6] Archived March 3, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  57. ^ See, e.g., 1811 article in local paper, at [7] or Town of Ithaca History project, available online (click on "History Project", then "Historical maps..." and finally "famous for its notorious immorality").
  58. ^ "The Rift Makes Ithaca Shift". HepsTrack, LLC. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 

External links[edit]