Fast Facts – Cornell Admissions

5 09 2013

7-26-2013 039

Well if this isn’t just one of the best one-stop shopping sites for Cornell facts. Five years ago, when this blog started, the “University Factbook” would best be described as a bunch of sparsely-populated webpages and a ramshackle set of links between them, more of an amateur endeavor than anything specific produced by the university. This is quite much awesome.

Since I feed off of Cornell/Cornelliana facts much like an addict looking for their next hit, I thought it was fascinating to consider enrollment trends and things of those numbers in context. Since the graphs start at 1980, I’ll start from there as well. Note that these figures cover undergraduate admissions only.

  • Looking at the number of applications and starting with the 17,007 in 1980, there’s a steady rise through most the 1980s, peaking in fall 1988 with 21,765 applications. From there, the numbers drop off to about 20,000 and stay close to that value until the fall of 2004, where a rapid ascension commences. Much of this can be explained by Cornell starting to accept the Common Application, where a check of the box equals another base application, making it much easier for the prospect to apply to 20 schools instead of a few.  Arts and Sciences and CALS follow the same general trend, while engineers never had much of a peak in the 80s, and AAP applications have dropped off since 2010. HumEc has stayed roughly constant since the late 1980s, the Hotel school shows the most wild swings, and ILR really took off in 2006, when some folks decided that being a lawyer was the path to easy riches. We also have the ones that don’t choose a school, which if I remember right, means an automatic rejection. Cornell shows at least 1,000 a year since 2006, and over 2,000 in 2008. Nice one, kids.
  • Looking at acceptances, Cornell started the ’80s with around 5500 acceptances per cycle, creeping past 6,000 as the decade progressed. For some reason, the numbers shot up in the 1990s to over 7,000 acceptances by 1993, and stayed near that number through 1998. After that, Cornell became more stringent, and acceptances dropped to 5,861 by 2001. Numbers have stayed in the 6,000 range since, with mini-peaks in the fall 2006 and 2008 classes, and little dips in the early 2000s and with the most recent classes.
  • The largest freshman classes? 2011, with 3356, followed by 1993(3286) and 2013(3282). The lows were all in the early 1980s, led by 1982(2785), and followed by 1980(2836) and 1981(2885). Cornell’s capacity has grown over the years, as the north campus townhouses were built in 1989, and CKB/Mews were opened in 2001. Notably, the last sub-3,000 class, in 1992(2959), seems to have precipitated the 1993 peak. No schools show any discernible trends, although Engineering’s numbers were up during the days of the 1990s tech boom.
  • The highest yields for the university (average 49.2%) were in 1984, 2000, 2001, and post-2010 (2013 is the highest at 53.4%). The lowest yields were 1992-97 and the mid 2000s. 1992 was the lowest at 44.4%. The university will have its work cut out for it as the echo boomers/millennials finish their collegiate years and schools compete over what may be smaller applicant pools.
  • HumEc shows the widest range in yield, with a low of 48% in 1983 to a high of 96% with the fall 2001 frosh class (the latest class is 67%). Schools with specialized focuses, like ILR and Hotel, seem to have the best yields, as Hotel pulls numbers consistently near 90%, and ILR does as well (albeit a little more inconsistently). CALS also pulls above average numbers, which may be in part to the in-state tuition benefit. Engineers are close to the university average (damn you MIT), while Arts has an average yield only in the upper 30s (there’s just so many liberal arts schools to compete with, not to mention the other Ivies…)
  • On average, women have a slightly higher yield than men, 49.9% vs. 48.4%. A few years, such as 2008, had a higher yield for men than women.




The Keyword Bar XIX

15 07 2013

4-8-2013 205

1. “cornell aem transfer from cc” (2013-07-15)

I can already hear the dyed-in-the-wool AEM majors complaining about this one, an image-conscious program sensitive to anything that would tarnish its reputation, including the suggestion that community college students can get into it. But fear not AEM majors, while CALS has guaranteed transfer agreements with many community colleges (“partner institutions”), the biology, landscape architecture, and non-agribusiness AEM majors are exempt from this and fall under “competitive transfer” admissions. So, for the community college student that thinks they can guarantee a transfer to join the I-Bankers to be, the process is much, much more competitive (on a related note, AEM is well known for having a high number of people applying to transfer into the program within Cornell internally, which has resulted in that process becoming rather difficult as well). Also, if you don’t attend a partnered institution, then the transfer isn’t guaranteed either. So, theoretically possible, but highly unlikely.

2. terrence quinn cornell (2013-07-13)

A case of where truth really is stranger than fiction. Terrence Quinn ’93 was a member of Sigma Alpha Mu, and was last seen alone and drunk outside a bar on January 15, 1993. Three days later, he was discovered in Psi Upsilon’s chimney, when his shoes and jeans fell to the mantel after the flue was opened. The cause of death was positional asphyxiation – whether by his own volition or the goading of others, it appears he climbed into the chimney and got stuck, suffocating due to the awkward position his neck was bent in. No foul play has ever been suspected, but it must have been for a very awkward rush week.

3. apartment+complex+in+cornell+heights+planned (2013-07-13)

Yup. This one. 20 units and 56 bedrooms. More details here.

4. architecture of mcgraw hall, cornell (2013-07-12)

Generally, McGraw Hall, the middle of the Old Stone Row, is considered to be an interpretation of Second Empire architecture  designed by Archimedes Russell, a prominent and prolific Syracuse-area architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Second Empire was in vogue at the time of McGraw Hall’s construction in the late 1860s and early 1870s (completed 1872), and takes its name from the French Second Empire, where the style originated. The building is finished with Ithaca bluestone, and the tower appears to face the wrong way because the earliest campus plan proposed (by Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame) that all campus structures form a grand terrace facing the lake.

5. cleveland estates ithaca housing development (2013-07-11)

Housing developments generally fall out of my focus – slow to build out and generally unremarkable. So I’ve seen Cleveland Estates, and just never wrote much about it (the last real blurb I wrote referencing it was in 2009). The site looks to have 12 lots, on a cul-de-sac off of Danby Road, west-southwest of Ithaca college. Infrastructure has been laid and lots are for sale.

6. mathai kolath george (2013-07-13, 2013-07-10)

Not long after I wrote about Llenroc Mansion near Albany, local news erupted when the widow of its owner, Annie George, was found guilty of keeping an illegal immigrant as a personal slave in her home, and as a result, the federal government is permitted to seize the property. If I were superstitious, I’d be tempted to think the property is cursed.





Cornell Likes Having Friends

30 06 2013

4-8-2013 233

The majority of buildings at Cornell are named for faculty, staff, and alumni with deep pockets. A few others just have generic titles. Occasionally, a building on campus is named for someone with no association with Cornell, except that they helped out the university (usually from a financial aspect). Some of buildings named for “Friends of Cornell”, as Alumni Affairs likes to call them, are detailed below.  One exception I make is that early on, some folks who were Cornell trustees (but had no association otherwise) have buildings named for them, such as Henry W. Sage, John McGraw and Hiram Sibley; but since they served Cornell in an official capacity, I’m excluding them here.

Morrill Hall (1868)  – Like many land-grant institutions, Cornell’s Morrill Hall is named for Justin Smith Morrill, author of the Morrill Act that allowed the sale of federal lands to raise funds for colleges focused on the agricultural and technical trades (some of the other schools include Purdue, Rutgers and MIT; Morrill is known best for this legislation, with his anti-Mormon work a distant second). Morrill had no official association with Cornell, although he did pay a visit to the university at least once, in 1883.

Morse Hall (1890), Franklin Hall (1883) and Lincoln Hall (1888) – In the Gilded Age, engineering and science buildings had the pleasure of being named for “great men” that contributed to the then-present condition of the university and STEM studies. Hence, Samuel Morse (inventor of the telegraph), Benjamin Franklin (politician, scientist, and all around bad-ass), and Abraham Lincoln (president who oversaw the passage of the Morrill Act). Morse Hall burned down, and Franklin Hall became Tjaden Hall (for prominent female architect Olive Tjaden ’25 ) in 1980.

Rockefeller Hall (1903) – Named and partially paid for by John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man in the world at the time (and, proportionately, believed to be the wealthiest man ever). Rockefeller has recently retired from Standard Oil and was just beginning his philanthropies, funding schools he believed to be practical. Rumor has it that he was so disappointed with the (then considered unattractive) appearance of Rockefeller Hall he vowed to never donate another cent to Cornell. Which hardly dampened his funding of institutions.

Fun fact, Walter Teagle, of Teagle Hall fame, was a vice president of Standard Oil a few decades later.

Baker Lab (1923) – Funded by George F. Baker, a sort of Warren Buffet of his time, and one of the wealthiest Americans on the early 20th century. Baker also provided much of the funding for the Harvard Business school, and made his way through the Ivy League with his donations, including Columbia’s Baker Field and Dartmouth’s Baker Library.

Mudd Hall (the west wing of Corson-Mudd Hall, 1982) – Named for Seeley G. Mudd, a prominent philanthropist. The foundation established with his fortune explicitly earmarks donations for the construction of academic buildings – the wikipedia list shows no less than 30 schools that have benefited from his funds. Otherwise, Dr. Mudd has no connection to Cornell.

Gates Hall (2013/14) – Not unlike Mudd Hall, Gates Hall is funded with a hefty donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic org maintained by Warren Buffet and  Microsoft overlord Bill Gates.

100_7116





Five Years Later

18 06 2013

4-8-2013 226

Well, as promised earlier, today’s the big day, where Ithacating celebrates birthday #5. I’m pretty sure this falls into the realm of “old” blogs by this point, especially if I believe the kids over at Ezrahub. Thankfully, unlike them and Eliiott Back’s old Cornell Blog, even if Cornell disliked my use of their name, I refer to a place instead of the school itself. In keeping with tradition, here’s a rundown of this blog’s statistics:

total_5th_birfday

Since launch, which was about 7 PM on June 18, 2008, this blog has garnered 308,481 hits, as of 2:30 PM today. In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199 and 216 hits daily. This year, it plateaued in the fall and effectively plunged in the spring. The blog only averaged 182 hits per day in the past year. I have a couple of theories – as old posts become “outdated”, they disappear from the radar; as folks have switched to twitter and other platforms, the audience may not quite be there like it used to. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t make me concerned, but the summer numbers will help figure out part of the problem – if they’re comparable to last year, than I’m just not familiar to the Cornell crowd anymore.

In contrast to previous years, the highest month was January, with 8,019 hits. One of the things I didn’t see quite so much was the summer plunge, since Ithaca traffic tends to be less seasonal than Cornell traffic. Why things decreased so much in February, I still don’t know.

Looking at the year in review:

~In planning and development, Collegetown Terrace and the Vine Street Cottages are well underway. 107 Cook was completed, and Collegetown Crossing was postponed because the BZA did not work out that whole parking requirement issue, and it falls to the city to actually change the parking space requirement. The southern suburbia got Ithaca Beer’s new brewery, the Fairfield Inn is nearly complete, and a proposal for eco-friendly housing, while Ecovillage started its next expansion over on West Hill. Cornell proposed some new townhomes near Eastern Heights, and Cayuga Heights decided it wanted to have a walkable town center.

In pleasant contrast to last year, the city was brimming with construction, ongoing and proposed. Seneca Way is under construction, Breckenridge Place is marching towards completion, and new proposals abound, such as Harold’s Square, the new Hampton Inn, and 130 East Clinton. Even some traditionally less developed areas are getting in on the act, with the Purity Ice Cream proposal near West End. Planned Parenthood is underway, the Iacovelli project and Magnolia House are nearly complete, and the Hotel Ithaca and Holiday Inn sites are in hold-over, but with construction begin dates on paper. Even the Cayuga Place project seems to making an attempt at true site prep. Finally breaking down the numbers, it became clear Ithaca is in a residential building boom.

Looking at our colleges, IC has some renovations underway, and Cornell plods on with Gates Hall, the Big Red Bandhouse, and the Stocking Hall rebuild and renovation. Prep is just starting on the new humanities building, Klarman Hall, a long ways off from its 2015 completion. Perhaps most importantly to students, the bridge fences finally came down, and with it, the last strong reminders of a dark semester in Cornell’s history.

Thankfully for my gas tank, a website arose that focuses closely on Ithaca construction and development – the succinctly named Ithaca Builds.

-Looking at Cornelliana, this blog compared and contrasted Far Above Cayuga to our friends on University Hill, took a look at Ezra’s progeny, and a favorite Cornell hobby, comparing it against its peers, in this case for Nobel Prize recipients. In a goodbye to another college memory, Dear Uncle Ezra went on indefinite hiatus. In Greek life, Kappa Sigma and Pi Kappa Alpha reopened, while a bunch of chapters were suspended or shut down (just looking at the Ezrahub site for this writeup, it appears ATO is the latest case). The Greek system looks to have had a rough year. In more general topics, there was a discussion on that time Ithaca almost had a commercial nuclear power plant, a look at Carl Sagan, the Collegetown Creeper, census estimates, and some other things in between.

In my personal life, this past year will go down as the year of uncertainty. Gainfully employed in my field, but still trying to advance my career and clear hurdles as they come up. I’m hoping to fulfill that goal in the next few weeks with some ongoing opportunities.

Five years is a long time to be around. It’s clear this blog has had some stumbles. But I’m not ready to quit just yet. I still have too much interest in writing about Cornell and Ithaca to stop. We’ll see where things go from here.





Can a Polluted Past Have A Future?

21 02 2013
Image Property of Welch Construction Inc.

Image Property of Welch Construction Inc.

Real estate in Ithaca is fairly warm as markets go (I refuse to call it hot). But there are still some gaping issues in the metro market.  One of the biggest examples is one that can be seen from just about any southward vantage point above the lake lowlands – Emerson Power Transmission.

The property started as Morse Chain, which dates back to 1880 and began the manufacture of automobile chains in 1906.  Morse Chain was acquired by locally prominent BorgWarner in 1929, and the facility continued industrial production until BorgWarner built a new facility near the airport in 1983, selling the factory to Emerson Power Transmission. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, several chemicals were used for “cutting oils”, removing oils from the manufactured automotive gears, shafts and chains at the tail end of the process. One of those was trichloroethylene, or TCE. TCE is a known carcinogen, and I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Unfortunately, the era of traditional manufacturing was fading in the Ithaca area. Emerson Power Transmission moved about 55 of its corporate senior staff to a suburban Cincinnati facility in 2007 (and I remember reading about it while a student at Cornell). The death knell came in August 2009, when Emerson announced it was closing up shop in Ithaca, putting 228 people out of work (the factory had over 500 people on site as recently as the mid-2000s, and had received tax incentives not long before closure). The closure was recent enough that this blog was already going, and the original entry is here.

At first glance, the property would appear to be potentially salable. It’s a large property in a well-populated and growing area with a substantial uptick in the real estate market. However, there’s one very, very big issue – the TCE contamination.

Although TCE use stopped by the late 1970s, the damage was done, and unknown quanities of it leaked into the groundwater and sewers. The site was declared contaminated by the state in 1988.

Since then, it’s been a series of long and contentious debates about who to hold responsible for what degree of clean-up. The city, the state DEC, and BorgWarner and Emerson had volleyed back and forth on who pays for what. 35 years after the chemical usage is stopped, yet nearby sewers have had to be replaced, soil tested constantly and excavated if contaminated, and groundwater / vapor testing in nearby properties. Essentially, a major environmental headache.

Although the brunt of the burden has fallen on government and Emerson to clean up (BorgWarner gets blame but seems to carry little if any of the cleanup cost), the site has been marketed for sale – $3.9 million for 94 acres plus structures (note that just the groundwater is contaminated, not the structures themselves – this isn’t Ithaca Gun). It was no surprise that with the remediation and continual testing, the site has been a tough sell.

All the more interesting, then, that the local chamber of commerce announced at a recent luncheon that someone is agreeing to purchase the property. Emerson’s in the final steps of reviewing the offer.  The property could be host to a variety of activities – the IJ article mentions a possible small business incubator like the one at the South Hill Business Campus (itself a former factory). Given the location, any number of industrial or commercial applications are possible, maybe even partial/total tear-down and redevelopment. The biggest obstacle apart from the lingering environmental concerns might be the fact that the property is split along the city and town of Ithaca, so both would have to accept any proposed redevelopment.  But still, any progress on the looming, decaying facility would be one of the surest signs of a “reinvention” of the area.





Klarman Hall

16 02 2013
Image Property of Cornell University

Image Property of Cornell University

The Humanities Building has a name – Klarman Hall. The building is named for Seth Klarman ’79, a prominent hedge fund manager and large-scale investor in pro-Israel organizations. Considering the construction cost  is at least $61 million, Klarman probably put up at least half of that amount.

A part of me wonders if there’s any cruel humor to be had in an investment banker with strongly pro-Israel views funding a humanities building where most of the students who will walk through those doors will hold an adopted dislike of him (due to his strongly capitalist tendencies, and Israel being an easy target for disdain given the conflict with Palestine). For what it’s worth, Mr. Klarman does keep a very low profile, and is considered fairly conservative as investors go.

Klarman Hall, which I have previously shrugged off as a token glass box, is set for a construction launch this summer, with completion in 2015. The building is planned to be LEED Platinum with low-energy everything and living roofs, and is designed by Koetter, Kim and Associates, a Boston firm founded by Cornell alumni.

In a twist any cynic would enjoy, it was discovered a few years ago that Goldwin Smith, the professor and namesake of the hall Klarman will be contiguous with, was a virulent anti-Semite.





A “Nobel” Accolade

4 10 2012

In the proverbial confidence-measuring that is academia, one of the things that colleges and universities like to throw out there is the breadth and depth of their Nobel laureates. The reasoning is simple enough; it’s a measurement of prestige, and the caliber of alumni and faculty.

Cornell lays claim to 41 such folks, according to a fall 2009 issue of the Cornell Chronicle, and according to wikpedia, that number has held steady. Within those 41, 3 are current faculty, 13 are alumni, and the other 25 are former faculty (moved, retired or otherwise). The last recipient was Jack Szostak Ph. D ’77, who won the Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2009.

So let’s take a brief look at how Cornell stacks up against its peers: First, the top 20 schools, as compiled by U.S. News and World Report, since that tends to be the most commonly used ranking system:

Harvard
MIT
Yale
U. Chicago
Penn
Columbia
Stanford
Caltech
Princeton
U. Mich
Cornell
Johns Hopkins
Duke
UC Berkeley
Northwestern
UCLA
Brown
UW-Madison
Carnegie Mellon
NYU

Now their Nobel laureates:

Columbia 80 (or 97, depending on your definition)
U. Chicago 87
MIT 77
Stanford 54
Yale 49
UC Berkeley 47
Harvard 46
Cornell 41
NYU 36
Johns Hopkins 36
Princeton 35
Caltech 32
Penn 28
UW-Madison 19
U. Mich 19
Carnegie Mellon 18
UCLA 14
Duke 12
Northwestern 8
Brown 7

Interestingly, U. Illinois-Urbana-Champaign has 26, but doesn’t appear in the top schools list from USNWR. International students may be annoyed at me for leaving of non-U.S. schools, and granted, there’s a few that have similarly high rankings and accolades. Forgive my blatant nationalism for the moment.

This exercise proves to me, on a very general level, that universities with Nobel affiliates tend to be more prestigious. However, there are some obvious issues- schools with large research programs tend to have more laureates, and we haven’t even explored the Nobel laureates per capita at each institution (an exercise in futility, since I would also require historical enrollement figures I don’t feel like digging for at the moment).

But whatever floats your boat Cornell P.R., and keep your fingers crosses at the next Nobel award ceremony.





The Descendants of Ezra

4 09 2012

The inspiration for this entry comes from a recent Sun article detailing the rescue of a woman from the gorge, in which the first responder was a Cornell student, and descendant of Ezra Cornell.

Some famous people, like William Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, have no living direct descendants. Ezra Cornell, who is at least famous to those who have spent four or more years in Ithaca, is quite the contrary.

Ezra Cornell had either nine or eleven children, which sounds prodigious until you realize that couples had as many children as possible back in the mid-19th century simply to ensure that nature and probability would allow at least a few of them to survive into adulthood. Indeed, four of Cornell’s children died before the age of 25. However, that leaves behinds seven children – three boys and four girls (or five, three boys and two girls, depending on which source is correct).

The most famous of Ezra’s direct descendants is likely his son Alonzo, who served as governor of New York from 1880 to 1882, and was married twice. The wikipedia article claims he had four boys. One of them, Charles Ezra Cornell (d. 1947), served as trustee and had three children of his own, of which one, William Cornell, survived to adulthood. So plenty of possibilities for descendants here.

Regarding Ezra’s other surviving children, Franklin Cornell, a banker, passed away in 1908, and at that time, three of his four children were still alive – one boy, Franklin Cornell, and two daughters, Ms. Dorothy Cornell and Mrs. Eunice Cornell Taylor.

Oliver Perry Cornell, the third son of Ezra, survived well into his mature years (d. 1911). He married and had at least one son.

As for the daughters, they tend to be less easy to track, since they take the names of their husbands. There was Mary Emily Cornell  and Emma Pettit Cornell Blair (d. 1914), of which I can be certain. A Dorothy and Emma Cornell also appear in one of the sources, but this could be a repeat, someone’s wife, or some other error (and this is why I would never wish to be a genealogist). Mary went to Vassar, passed away at the age of 87 in 1935 (making her the last of the first generation), and appears to have remained unmarried. But Emma did marry, and had three boys, Charles, Cornell, and Hamilton Blair.

So, given this illustration, it is likely that there are Cornell descendants sill kicking around today, many of whom still live near the Ithaca area. Among those, Ezra Cornell IV (class of 1970), and the kid from the Sun article. Thomas Ezra Cornell Collum ’14.

On a final note, in the early days of the university, direct descendants could attend free of charge. However, with the proliferation of descendants, this practice was discontinued beyond the fourth generation, by order of the Board of Trustees in 1932. The university notes that the last folks eligible were of college-age around sixty years ago. So even if you find out you’re a seventh-generation progeny of Ezra, it won’t help your pocketbook if you attend the Big Red. But I’m sure it would make a nice conversation piece.





Four Years Later

18 06 2012

My oh my. This blog turns four years ago today. I wanted to celebrate this port by comparing this blog to the average age of blogs, or the average number of posts for an active blog. Turns out neither piece of data is readily available. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this blog has reached maturity, though I won’t go as far to say “old age”.  In keeping in tune with three previous three “birthday” updates, here’s some fun facts.

Since launching on the evening of June 18, 2008, this blog has received a grand total of 241,966 hits, as of 2:29 PM today. Breaking down the math, that’s about 166 hits/day. While the previous years averaged 82, 166 and 199 hits/day respectively, I’m happy to say that the blog came a little closer to the saturation point with an average total of just under 216 hits/day in the past year, and yes, I did remember it’s a leap year. Taking a cursory glance at the monthly statistics:

The highest month was once again March, with 8,247 hits, although the peak isn’t as pronounced as it was in previous years. Going year-to-year, the only month that was lower in 2011/12 versus 2010/11 was August, although June and July came fairly close. This is due to the Cornell-centric nature of the blog – once classes are out for the summer break, my hit tally plummets like a stone. Although, that’s been somewhat avoided this year, which I’ll guess is the result of the more Ithaca-area focus taken on in the past year, and is a bit more stable in terms of visitors to this site.

Looking at the past year in review:

~In planning and development,the biggest news is the construction of Collegetown Terrace the massive 1200-bed project south of Collegetown. Approvals were granted and phase one is underway, with an August opening for the first buildings. The Vine Street Cottages also began construction, replacement apartments were planned for 107 Cook, and 309 Eddy marched merrily towards completion, which should be in just a few short months.The Coal Yard apartments phase II was built, and Collegetown Crossing was proposed with the radical premise of no parking for residents, in a move that could make or break Collegetown. in suburbia, everyone got BJ’s in Lansing, and the holiest of holy casual dining restaurants came to big box land, a Chipotle.

Closer downtown, the Seneca Way project was approved and is now in site prep, and the new Fairfield Inn is under construction down in chain store country. The Argos Inn renovation moved towards completion and the Breckinridge Place project began construction, currently in the demo phase of the old Women’s Community building. Several smaller projects also began construction, such as the Iacovelli apartments on West Seneca and the Magnolia House women’s shelter. In the longer-term, the massive Cascadilla Landing project was proposed, and could potentially  redefine the city waterfront, and the new Holiday Inn tower/renovation will add a small conference center to the Gorge City.

Over at the colleges, Ithaca College built a boathouse and started its Circle Apartments expansion. Over on East Hill, Milstein Hall, MVR north, and the Johnson addition were completed, the food science building is well underway, Gates Hall is in foundation work, and the law school just launched their underground addition. The Big Red bandhouse is set to start shortly, and Kappa Delta renovated their home-away-from-home in what was probably the most significant Greek house renovation in more than a decade. Fundraising began for the new token glass box, also known as the Goldwin Smith Hall addition. More importantly, some bridge nets and barriers were approved, and their construction will hopefully bring to an end a dark chapter of Cornell’s history.

In the meanwhile, some projects still have yet to get off the ground. The Hotel Ithaca is still in some financing conundrum, as are the Cayuga Green Condos, which were given an extension on their cost-saving agreement with the city, given the poor lending climate. Ithaca Gun is undergoing yet more land remediation with no construction date in sight (honestly, it seems like the only way the land could have been more contaminated is if someone nuked it).

~Turning an eye towards Cornell matters, the least surprising lawsuit was launched when the mother of George Desdunes filed a wrongful death suit against SAE to the tune of $25 million. The bench trial wrapped up about a month ago, though I’ve yet to hear about a verdict. The number of bars near Cornell continued to shrink, but students can now drown their sorrows in frozen yogurt instead. When the Palms said they were closing up, a couple dozen of my fraternity’s young alumni offered to buy a table of some sentimental value to us if they were willing part with it. They asked for $1500 for a rotting wooden bench table. We laughed (we were thinking $500 max). They said they were serious and it was a starting bid. Needless to say, I have many happy memories of a table that hopefully no longer exists. Rumor has it a new apartment tower will rise where the Palms once drunkified multitudes of Cornellians.

~From a meteorological standpoint, the ITH toyed with 100-degree temps and had a collective anxiety attack about the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene, but was spared the brunt of the destructive tropical cyclone. However, this relief was short lived when the extratropical remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped 8.7″ in 24 hours at Binghamton, and flooded many local towns to the tune of $1 billion in damage, a number not seen since the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. It also resulted in one of the wettest years on record. Ithaca, while soaked and unnerved, was relatively unscathed.

Many things, many topics. In comparison to the past years, I now write this while firmly ensconced in alumnidom, my trips back further and further apart. At this point, I’m finishing grad school, and interviewing for positions in California and Texas. It was not exactly in my wishes to move as far out, as my northeastern blood may not be able to tolerate nice winters. But, that’s where the jobs are in my field at the moment. Ideally, I can make a triumphant return to the northeast someday.

I write not out of obligation, but out of genuine interest, which I think has been one of the attributes that has made this blog a reasonable success. I see the emails of those who follow comments and posts – they include other alumni and current students of course, but also prominent companies in Ithaca and some local government officials. Flattering, if a little disquieting for fear of botching up my facts. More importantly, I think it serves as an indicator of the usefulness of this blog, that people honestly come here searching out information, and many of them leave feeling a bit knowledgeable about Ithaca projects and stories, or Cornell history and construction projects. Or at least, I hope as much. It makes for great motivation in the months and years ahead.





This Old House

4 04 2012

In the years that I’ve written this blog, I have written many articles highlighting the history of the physical assets in the region, but as I’ve exhausted many of my sources, and my access to new sources has become more difficult post-graduation, I’ve tended to focus on new development in Ithaca and the colleges. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but there are occasions where the acknowledgment of historical assets must be given its due.

When I visited for my last photo tour back before New Year’s, I came across an aging Greek Revival house on the north end of downtown that was in a deplorable state. The red siding was tired, the Doric columns of the porch chipped with the paint worn off, the foundation crumbling and the windows damaged, with sills breaking off, and missing panes in some places. I resolved that before something happened to it (most likely the wrecking ball), I was determined to take a few photos and share the house before it becomes confined to the old yellowing photos of times long ago.

Officially, the house is 102 East Court Street. Historically, the house is the “Judd House“. The house was built in 1828 – the same year Ezra Cornell had arrived in the budding town of Ithaca, which has hardly twenty years old. An estimate establishes the house as having about 3,100 sq ft, 4 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Furthermore, the assessed value of the house is $190,000, although given its condition the land it sits on is probably worth more then the physical plant itself.

Property of Cornell University Library (A. D. White Collection)

A casual online search reveals a photo from Cornell’s A.D. White Collection, which shows the house in a much better state of affairs in what the vehicle to the left suggests is the 1920s. Furthering searching indicates the house was most likely designed by Ira Tillotson, the same architect for the Clinton House, which is a contemporary to this home. The once-stately residence was built for Capt. Charles Humphrey, a veteran of the War of 1812, on what was then the corner of Cayuga and Mill Street. The house and a long-removed barn were constructed for a cost of $2,105.56, which places the cost of construction likely somewhere in the upper six digits to $1 million-plus today. The name Judd House comes from long-time owners of the house in the 1900s, who apparently took great pains to keep the house in good shape. Sadly, that is not the case today.

In a perfect world, someone would come along and renovate and restore the venerable house to its former glory (perhaps INHS? A Cornell or IC faculty member with ambition)? It would be a shame to lose such an asset to Ithaca’s history. However, the decay is advanced and renovation would be expensive, or may not even be viable given the precarious state of the foundation, which is continually harmed by the freezes and thaws of the Ithacan year. As time creeps forward and winters take their toll, the long life of this home may be coming to end.








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