Ithaca, N.Y. — Ice sailing. Horses sliding on Aurora Street. Pond hockey.

Why I shop downtown — Marty

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We tend to think of snow as an immutable force here, as an unavoidable consequence of living in Ithaca — and, of course, it is.

But with the help of the (remarkably patient!) good folks at the History Center of Tompkins County, we can see that the way in which we interact with the snow has, in fact, changed quite a bit over the decades.

“Ice sailing on Cayuga Lake was a popular winter activity,” a caption notes.

(This was supposed to be a Throwback Thursday feature, but we got busy and so it became a Throwback Friday story. Sorry.)

This, by the way, is probably our favorite in the whole bunch:

The caption for the photo above: “To show enthusiasm for the coming holiday season customer Joe Gluck, barber Joe Zazzara, another barber and C. Fred Abahama dance in front of Central Barber Shop, 126 West State Street, circa 1960.” (Of course, that barber shop was sadly closed by the truck crash.)

Photos continue:

State Theatre in 1977

The history center says of the following photo: “The cityscape is downtown Ithaca around 1890, on Cayuga Street looking north.”

Don’t see a lot of Ithacans doing this nowadays … “Wash on a reel at the Morton homestead, 1901.”

A fire in 1912 destroyed the Ithaca High School:

The Cornell Arts Quad, in an undated photo (an educated guess puts it at least before the 1940s):

Beebe Lake pond hockey in 1947, photo by Clayton Smith:
Ithaca city firefighters in 1943 … Commissioner Jim Otis in the front.

The caption for the following photo notes that Cornell students frequently enjoyed the “tobaggan run,” especially the steel structure erected sometime around 1917…

But, the caption notes — somewhat enigmatically — that the practice fell out of favor in the late 1930s when “21 injuries spelled its demise.”

Naturally, that wouldn’t stop Ithacans from using the snow for its principal purpose — fun —for decades to come…

See related: 29 photos of Cornell, Ithaca when ‘the urgent snow is everywhere’


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.