Ithaca was home to the Smith family’s Ithaca Gun Company from its inception in 1880 until 1967. Their most famous patron, Annie Oakley, was cited in a 1916 advertisement for their Lightning Lock mechanism as “the greatest lady shooter that ever lived”.
Ithaca Commons was the first pedestrian mall in New York State. Built in 1974, the site plays host to several local festivals, with many restaurants and unique stores.
Ithaca became one of America’s first film capitals when, after travelling to Ithaca from Wisconsin to shoot a Cornell University football game for the Chicago Essanay Film Company, producer Theodore Wharton decided the natural beauty of Ithaca’s surroundings would be the perfect backdrop for his films. His Renwick Park studio near Cayuga Lake produced over 100 episodes for serial films. Featuring stars like Pearl White, dancer Irene Castle, Lionel Barrymore, and the special effects by Harry Houdini, Ithaca was the Hollywood of the East Coast between 1913-1920.
Ezra Cornell’s founding gift to his namesake university in 1865 was $500,000—with housing and meal fees, modern-day tuition will run you as much as half that amount over four years.
Peter Yarrow, of the band Peter, Paul and Mary, wrote their hit song “Puff the Magic Dragon” while living in Ithaca, NY on the Cornell campus. Based on a poem written by Leonard Lipton, Yarrow’s then roommate, the tune reached #2 on the Billboard charts in 1963. A few years after the song peaked, Yarrow sought Lipton out, giving him half the songwriting credit.
Ithaca has nurtured its fair share of famous people: from Cornell graduates Christopher Reeves, Toni Morrison, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to native Ithacans like former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, astronomer and author Carl Sagan, television writer Rod Serling, and "Roots" author Alex Haley.
Famous for its many waterfalls, Ithaca claims more than 100 within 10 miles of its downtown. Combined, they’d amount to 7,342 feet tall—that's almost a mile-and-a-half of waterfall!
On April 3,1892 (a Sunday afternoon), downtown Ithaca soda-fountain proprietor, Chester C. Platt, served up two bowls of vailla ice cream for himself and the local pastor, topping each dish with a candied cherry and cherry syrup. The gentlmen found this new dessert so delightful, they decided it needed a name—which is how Ithaca became the birthplace of the first ice cream “sundae".
Ithaca, NY is home to the North American Seat of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama by way of Namgyal Monastery. The monastery is open to the public, and offers authentic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in a traditional monastic setting.
Ithaca is the birthplace (and was nearly the resting place) of novelist and Cornell professor Vladimir Nabokov’s infamous Lolita—he nearly burned the draft every American publisher rejected the tale. By yanking the manuscript from the incinerator, Nabokov’s wife changed literary history.
Described by Bon Appetit magazine as “one of the thirteen most influential and revolutionary restaurants of the 20th century”, the Moosewood Restaurant, has been a famous Ithaca landmark since 1973, when it began publishing award-winning vegetarian cookbooks.
Are you an Ithaca history expert? Check out these bits on Binghamton.