The history of Historic Ithaca’s creation dates back to the early 1950’s when gas stations began to replace the big old homes near the center of the city and the 1866 Cornell Public Library. Soon the 1844 City Hall became too expensive to renovate, and the fiscal incentives of urban renewal were too attractive to save many of the old structures of the city. When the 1871 Ithaca Hotel came into the spotlight as the next target for demolition, many Ithaca residents and community members (many with Cornell connections) banded together to form Historic Ithaca and Tompkins County, Inc. It is now known as Historic Ithaca.
The initial members of Historic Ithaca were local business people, including Agda Swenson Osborn ’20 and Mabel DeMotte, banker A.W. Chamberlain, Florence Hoard, Elizabeth Lucy Simpson ’34, who led many community beautification efforts; and Professor Walter Stainton ’19, president of the DeWitt Historical Society in the county. Cornell history of architecture professor Stephen Jacobs, a national authority on historic preservation and president of Historic Ithaca for a number of years, was a key figure in the early formation of the organization.
At Historic Ithaca’s organizational meeting in 1966, it was decided to identify significant Ithaca buiildings that were in danger of demolition. The four buildings identified were the Clinton House, the former Ithaca High School, Boardman House and Tompkins Country Courthouse. Since then Historic Ithaca has continued to be the voice of historic preservation in Tompkins Country and the Finger Lakes region.