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City of Ithaca Dewitt Map of 1840
courtesy of The History Center

Mary Tomlan, Historian

The City of Ithaca began as a small commercial center at the head of Cayuga Lake. The state recognized Ithaca as the county seat in 1817 when it formed Tompkins County and it was incorporated as a Village in 1821. Cornell University opened in 1868 and in 1888 Ithaca became a city. The architecture in the City reflects styles of the past; there are interesting churches, A.M.E. Zion the oldest church building, the Clinton House, a Greek Revival style hotel now converted into office and theater space; the Ithaca Commons, the first pedestrian street in the state, and Ithaca College. The City is also home to the Tompkins County Museum, the Sciencenter, Cornell’s Johnson Museum, and numerous galleries.