Ithaca, New York, is situated on the southern end of Cayuga Lake and is the seat of Tompkins County. The community (population 29,300) was named after the island home of the Greek hero Odysseus. Known as “Sodom” and “The Flats” in its days as an unruly frontier town, Ithaca was a busy transportation center for the region by the mid-19th century, served by several rail lines and daily steamboat departures.
Ezra Cornell, who had made a fortune through his early involvement in the telegraph industry, founded the university bearing his name here in 1868. Ithaca also lays claim to being the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.
In 1970, Ithaca adopted one of New York State’s earliest preservation ordinances, establishing a Landmarks Preservation Commission. In 1986, the town became a Certified Local Government, which enabled it to receive grants to develop a city-wide Reconnaissance Survey and Treatment Plan, design guidelines, interpretive signage, and nine other projects to date.
In 1997, the city adopted a local tax abatement program to spur investment in local historic resources, following a successful effort to change State law to enable local communities to offer such an incentive. The program phases in the increase in assessed value resulting from rehabilitation of historic buildings that are locally designated landmarks.
Cornell University buildings on West Campus.