ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca College has officially sold its venerable East Hill presidential mansion at 2 Fountain Place to new owners, who are alumni of Ithaca College and Cornell University. With the purchase of their “dream house,” the couple plans to turn the historic property into a bed and breakfast.

The total purchase price was $1.7 million, according to a news release from the college. The purchase includes both 2 Fountain Place, the 9,100 square-foot mansion located in the city of Ithaca’s historic East Hill neighborhood, and its adjacent former carriage house, 2,812 square-foot 2 Willets Place. The buyers, Ashleigh and Ryan Zimmerman, are alumni of Ithaca College (Class of 1999) and Cornell University (Class of 1997) respectively. The couple will move into 2 Fountain Place and convert the property into a bed and breakfast lodge, while 2 Willets Place will be a rental property.

“The Zimmermans currently own childcare and real estate businesses in central Pennsylvania. They were married in Ithaca in 2001, and have returned to the area frequently for homecomings, reunions, and various camps attended by their four children. They intend to put permanent roots down in Ithaca with the purchase of what they call their ‘dream house,’” states the press release.

Meanwhile, Ithaca College plans to apply the proceeds of the sale toward the construction of a new on-campus presidential residence, which is currently in the design phase and expected to be built on the northern end of the South Hill campus.

The Zimmermans plan to operate a four-room bed and breakfast out of the nine-bedroom mansion. Originally, the plan was for 10 bedrooms in the main house, but city law only allows for a maximum of four bedrooms in a bed and breakfast property, so the plan was scaled back. As local law requires, the Zimmermans will live inside the mansion. With the exception of a new five square-foot sign for the B&B, no exterior changes to the properties are planned. The sale of the properties will also return them to the tax rolls.

“We are thrilled to be coming back to Ithaca and to becoming an integral part of the community,” Ashleigh Zimmerman said. “As Ithaca College and Cornell alumni, Ithaca has always felt like home to us. In purchasing a new home in Ithaca we feel blessed.”

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

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. The property served as the president’s mansion for Ithaca College until 2017, when the college decided to part with the mansion and carriage house, citing maintenance costs and an inability to host large functions on-site. The properties went up for sale with an asking price of $1.95 million in April 2018.

“It is an absolute honor that IC has entrusted us to be the next steward of these gorgeous properties. As an Ithaca College student, never did I imagine I would one day own the college president’s mansion.  Furthermore, as an avid fan of William Henry Miller, never did Ryan think he would actually ever own one of his pieces of work. There are so many people who have been touched by the town of Ithaca, by Ithaca College, and by Cornell University. In opening a bed and breakfast in Fountain Place we are excited to offer people the chance to experience a piece of the deep history that this town has to offer.  It truly is a one of a kind property and there is no place like Fountain Place,” Zimmerman said.

The Zimmermans plan to host a community open house at a later date.

Featured image: 2 Fountain Place. (Courtesy of Ithaca College)

Brian Crandall

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