Ithaca, New York is located at the southern end of Cayuga Lake in Tompkins County at 42.4° north and 76.5° west. Ithaca has a permenant population of about 30000, which roughly doubles during the college year. Ithaca has been called the "most enlightened city in America" by the Utne Reader.

The land that Ithaca is situated upon was once the home to the the Todarighroone tribe, a part of the Cayuga Nation in the Iroquois Confederation. The Todarighroones had built up quite a settlement, called Coreorgonel, on the Taughannock Stream, just to the southeast of the city, by the 1760's. During the American Revolution, General John Sullivan was dispatched to punish the Iroquois tribes for siding with the British in the conflict. Sullivan and his troops burned many settlements, including Coreorgonel.

The government of New York State awarded land in the western stretches of the state to veterans of the revolution, which began the settlement of this part of the state. The state sent out survey teams to chart the western part of the state, as well as determine where the Iroquois would pose a threat to the settlers. Simeon DeWitt, the State Surveyor General, surveyed south of Cayuga Lake in 1804, and named the area Ithaca because of its location within the Town of Ulysses, the ancient Greek whose home was the island of Ithaki.

Once the state surveyed the land, a mass migration from the Hudson River Valley occurred, as settlers looked for land outside the reach of the Dutch landlords. Many settled in Ithaca, where the land was great for farming, and the hills provided natural protection from raids. By 1817, Ithaca was named the county seat for the new Tompkins County, named after former governor of New York and Vice-President of the US, Daniel Tompkins.

When the first steamship began operation in 1821, Ithaca became a transportation hub for goods heading south from the Finger Lakes. Ithaca received even more immigrants, which constructed churches, schools, and more permanent and upscale housing in the city center.

As more immigrants arrived, an emphasis on education emerged in Ithaca. In 1865 Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White decided to create a university to pursue further knowledge in agriculture. The state gave Cornell and White a grant to land located on East Hill in Ithaca, and they began construction. In 1868, Cornell University opened its doors, beginning the long history of this world-renown university. Cornell now hosts about 18000 students from all over the world, making Ithaca one of the most diverse cities in New York State. Education continued to blossom when, in 1892, the Ithaca Conservatory opened. Today, it is known as Ithaca College, and offers degrees in music, theater, and physical education.

Today, Ithaca could be considered a small pocket of liberalism surrounded by a sea of conservatism. The high level of education in Ithaca is a substantial anomaly compared to the surrounding mountain towns. As such, Ithaca has often become a crucible for the implementation of social programs on a small scale. One of Ithaca's more socialist programs is the Ithaca HOURS program. Ithaca HOURS is a LETS (or Local Exchange Trade System) system founded by Paul Glover in 1991, used only in Ithaca as a form of legal tender. Over 400 businesses in Ithaca accept HOURS, which has a circulation equivalent to about $70000. The HOURS system is often used as a model for other LETS programs nationwide.

Other Facts:

Tompkins County is well known for it's natural beauty, with locations such as Taughannock Falls State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and the canyons and gorges that cut across the hills. "Ithaca is Gorges" has become a meme of sorts in the town, and can be found on t-shirts and bumper stickers.

Ithaca was one of the major stops on the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War. Many residents, especially those in the congregation of St. James A. M. E. Zion Church, help to hide, feed, and direct slaves on their way to freedom in Canada.

The Ithaca Gun company was founded in 1880 as a manufacturer of custom-built pump action shotguns. With a commitment to custom construction for each order, Ithaca Gun has developed a small but very strong following. These guns also played a prominent role in Robert B. Parker's Spenser stories.

Ithaca is home to the famous Moosewood Restaurant and Collective. Located on the corner of Seneca and Cayuga Streets, the Moosewood specializes in vegetarian organic foods, and has released ten cookbooks based on their recipes.


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I was born in Ithaca and grew up in the surrounding area. It often receives a bum rap as a place with horrible weather, as it is mostly commented upon by students of its two universities, Ithaca College and Cornell University. For the most part, these kids only experience the climate as it is during the school year. In the summer months, Ithaca is beautiful. The city itself is situated in a valley, surrounded by lush green hills on three sides and lies on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. On many a car can be seen bumperstickers emblazoned with "Ithaca is Gorges." The area was long ago carved out by glaciers, leaving tremendous gorges and breathtaking waterfalls, including Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and nearby Taughannock Falls. Taughannock is the highest waterfall in the Northeastearn United States; a great deal higher than Niagara Falls.

Ithaca is a very liberal community and boasts its own monetary system called Ithaca Hours.

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