Ithaca Gun cleanup at standstill, safety concerns continue

A look at the rubble left behind after the Ithaca Gun factory was demolished. The iconic Ithaca Gun smokestack is seen in the distance. (Photo by Rachel Philipson)

To the Ithaca City Mayor, Laura Lewis

And to the Ithaca City Common Council


I am writing about the Ithaca Gun Factory smokestack and the proposed public park on Lake Street. 


I find the proposed park to be little more than a public nuisance and urge that this area not be highlighted as a public and tourist attraction.


I strongly support keeping the smokestack as long as it is maintained and poses no safety issues. The smokestack, with the large ITHACA GUN logo is one of the few reminders that the City of Ithaca and this area was built by working people. The Gun Company began by producing high quality and unique hunting rifles that were used, in many cases, to bring home game that fed families. The company provided jobs that allowed workers to create families, buy homes, and feel a sense of pride in their work as it became a landmark company. 


Ithaca was built by workers who dredged the creeks to contain flood waters, by those who toiled at the two glass companies, by the people who created bicycle chains, or made Ithaca clocks or airplanes. At one time workers in Ithaca built the village into a city with their labor and by creatively making improvements and they were able to live comfortably, raise families, see their children educated in our schools, support churches and fraternal lodges, enjoy our parks and open spaces.


There is little today to mark those who worked to create the city that we now call home. Their gardens have been turned into large structures created that provide little employment, their houses are torn down or have been converted into expensive apartments or parking lots, the products of their handiwork are disappearing.


That history is being obliterated as Ithaca more and more becomes a place too expensive for workers with low wages, and home ownership in the city declines.


Ithaca is famous for its quality of life, its educational institutions, for its full and rich cultural life led along the beauty of Cayuga Lake and the waters that feeds it. We celebrate all this, name streets for the famous, learn about the history of those who achieved fame in many fields.


We should also acknowledge that the word gun is not in itself bad, and the origin of the Ithaca Gun Company was to provide recreation and food enhancement. The Gun Company also, as did just about every manufacturing organization in the country, had government contracts during the two great wars of the 20th century. 


To remove the unique smokestack because of the word gun is to attempt to erase the past, but in doing so, we also erase the working history of this community that allowed it to grow and prosper. We thrive on what the past has given us. To erase that is an attempt to cleanse our presence of a loaded word because of current difficult and tragic events, but it is also to erase the very past that has made the present possible.


Respectfully submitted for your consideration,


Carol Kammen

(4) comments

John Butler

Can't hide history, can't deny what made you. Maybe Ithaca should clean up the south shore of Cayuga Lake and make Stewart Park into what ut once was ...... or just Co demn others for not doing what they won't do. The "woke" needs to wake up.

Linda Silber

Huzzah Carol! Well said!

One further reason for retaining the Ithaca Gun chimney would be to provide homes for nesting chimney swifts. I well remember the large flocks swarming in to the Strand Theaters' (now demolished) chimney at dusk each summer evening.

Ken Deschere

Very well said, Carol. Thank you!

While much of the contamination left from our industries of the past remains in place despite efforts at removal, we should try to save this visible statement of our honor for those who worked many years to keep our city and its residents alive.

Bruce Lane

I am a history buff. A supporter of the History Center. Past owner of a historical Ithaca business. And part of me loves the chimney. Another part of me remembers the first visit to Ithaca from my Argentine relatives, who took a look at the chimney and said "In Argentina we all know the name Ithaca Shotguns. The police used them regularly to kill protestors on the streets. It is good to remember the hunting legacy of Ithaca Guns, but the harsh reality, which should be important to Ithacans, is that those guns were marketed to customers to kill people too.

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