Ithaca Times

Welcome to the Neighborhood

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Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 2:23 pm | Updated: 2:48 pm, Fri Aug 17, 2012.

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, Jewish and black immigrants.

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. The houses are mostly small Colonials, many single-gabled. The streets 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 still empty, but the lot is freshly paved.

Housing prices

North of Cascadilla Street: median home price $115,577; median rent $737. South of Cascadilla Street: median home price $143,725; median rent $704.

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

Fall Creek streets are lined with houses of a wide variety of architectural styles. Many of the larger houses have been divided into apartments, but over the last decade there has been a resurgence in homeowning in the neighborhood. This mixture of post-collegiate and young family demographics has given rise to community events like PorchFest, a summer concert event.

Housing prices

Fall Creek proper: median home price $158,482; median rent $743. University Hill is between Fall Creek and Cornell University. Median home price $298,205; median rent $892.

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 Google group (groups.google.com/group/fcna-ithaca ) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Creek-Neighborhood-Association-Ithaca/134165656655135).

DOWNTOWN

History

In the first half of the 19th century Ithaca began as a mixture of industry, commerce and residences. After the 1850s the industrial sector moved elsewhere and State Street became the axis of commercial development in the city. 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.

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.

Housing prices

Median home price: $256,917; median rent $758

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 and is the route to Geneva. 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, which it succeeded in getting, although more were added through the following decades. 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.

The intersection of Rts. 79, 96, 89, 13A, and 13 at the base of West Hill forms the infamous “Octopus,” which was reoriented in the 1990s, but is still regarded as something of a barrier between this neighborhood and the rest of the city.

Characteristics

Easily the most bucolic of the neighborhoods, West Hill consists of mostly cottage-style homes on relatively small lots. There are some Victorians scattered through the cottages and toward top of the hill the stock grades into ranch-style homes and modern houses with Colonial proportions. 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.

Housing prices

Median home price $147,024; median rent $708

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.

In the 20th century the non-student population included many immigrants and was generally working class, although faculty families lived there too. The history of conflicts between students and residents is over a century old with student cars and parking issues dating from as early as 1916.

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. The residential areas consist of large wooden cottage-style homes with some Victorians (not a few of them brick) homes that have been divided up into apartments. Parking is (and always has been) a problem. South of Mitchell Street there are more single-family family homes.

Housing prices

Lower Collegetown (bounded by E. Seneca, Catherine and Linden): $246,065; $781. Lower East Hill (bounded by E. Seneca, Stewart and Fall Creek): $390,310; $777. Central Collegetown: $195,155; $969.

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. Most of them were built in the Arts & Craft style popular at the time out of local materials. 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. The houses are mostly cottage-style (some actual bungalows). 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.

Housing prices

South of Mitchell Street: $261,517; $776. North of Mitchell Street: $260,917; $915

School district

Belle Sherman 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.

Six Mile Creek was the site of a brewery as early as 1823, and in the late 19th century barrels and cigars were manufactured on East Clinton and South Aurora streets. The Luce Dairy on Hillsview Place was the milk processing plant for farms from Interlaken to Brooktondale.

The most prominent industry on South 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 manufacture 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. Excepting Rogan's Corner convenience store, businesses are concentrated along Rt. 96B south of the college. The base of Hudson Street, however, is an easy walk to  downtown. The pedestrian bridge to Collegetown over Six Mile Creek at the foot of Columbia Street is presently being rebuilt.

Housing prices

Most of South Hill: $195,822; $680. Along Spencer Road: $234,941; $1,012

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 also been the case historically, in part because of the presence of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Cleveland Avenue. Today it is the oldest church structure 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. Its officers and members were important figures in the Ithaca civil rights movement through the 1950s and '60s. African Americans in Ithaca suffered the same kind of discrimination as nearly everywhere else in the country.

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 amenties. 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, changing from cottage-style to ranch-style. 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.

Housing prices

Southside (north of Six Mile Creek): $129,392; $756. Titus Flats (south of Six Mile Creek): $162,516; $338 (likely skewed by Titus Towers).

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 2009. According to trulia.com the median sale price has not changed significantly since 2009.

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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