Fountain Place (President's House, three-quarter view), Photo property of Ithaca College

ITHACA, N.Y. — On South Hill, the mantra seems to be “out with the old, in with the new.” Amidst renovations on campus, the college has announced plans to retire the president’s house indefinitely.

Citing “mounting financial and logistical challenges” regarding its age, location, cost to maintain and awkward interior arrangement, the college has decided to close the 9,100 square-foot mansion at 2 Fountain Place in the city’s historic East Hill neighborhood. Designed by influential Ithaca architect William Henry Miller and built in 1891 for a lawyer’s private residence, Ithaca College purchased the property in 1938, back when the college was based out of downtown Ithaca.

Fountain Place (President’s House, three-quarter view), Photo property of Ithaca College
Fountain Place (President’s House, three-quarter view), Photo property of Ithaca College

For those worried about the fate of the venerable old manse on the hill, the house is relatively well-protected. The college appears to have taken good care of it over the decades, and since the house sits in a historic district, any alterations visible from the outside would need need to be approved by the city’s Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission. For example, the most recent work was in 2013 for ADA accessibility from the rear porch, an ADA-suitable bathroom, and air conditioning. The chance of this grand dame coming down for a new high-rise is remote, to see the least.

However, the college is weighing its options, including selling the estate. Zoning on the site pretty much leaves the options at private residence, group homes, or a fancy bed and breakfast inn. Tompkins County last had it assessed at just under $2 million, so a sale of the 7-bedroom, 5-bath property would likely return it to the tax rolls, and deposit some green into municipal coffers.

In the meanwhile, incoming Ithaca College president Shirley Collado and her husband will live in a downtown apartment rented at the college’s expense, and presidential functions normally hosted at Fountain Place will instead be hosted on Ithaca College’s campus. Look for a decision on permanent presidential housing sometime before the end of the 2017-18 school year.

So, how much does this matter to the students? Probably not much. I asked my colleague, Ithaca College alumnus and Voice business manager Mike Blaney, if he had read the announcement, and he didn’t even know where the president’s house was.

Courtesy of Madeline Mathers

However, there is plenty for the students on South Hill to be interested in. For example, renovations of the Campus Center Dining Hall, photo courtesy of IC student Madeline Mathers. The Campus Center renovations are part of a multi-year plan to update the Bombers’ dining facilities, with Terrace Dining Hall getting a thorough update last year.

Other summer activities include the installation of a retaining wall at Butterfield Stadium, several roof replacements, bathroom and classroom upgrades and energy-saving features like new windows and LED lighting.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.