Ithaca, New York 2020

Ithaca is a city located in the US state of New York. Inhabited by Native Americans for centuries, the city area was first settled by whites in the late 18th century. Ithaca itself was founded in the early 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, it became a city in its own right and its population has grown steadily ever since. Today, Ithaca continues to thrive as a small town that is a frequent destination for students studying at one of its post-secondary institutions, as well as tourists enjoying the area’s natural and man-made attractions.

Geography of Ithaca

Libe Slope students watching the sunset on the Cornell University campus. Editorial credit: Jay Yuan /

Ithaca is located in the Finger Lakes region of central New York State. It is located on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake. Bordering Ithaca to the northwest is the city of Northwest Ithaca. Cayuga Heights borders Ithaca to the north and northeast Ithaca borders it to the northeast. To the southeast of Ithaca is the town of East Ithaca, and to the direct south is the town of South Hill. The city of Enfield is located west of Ithaca. Cayuga Inlet, which is connected to Cayuga Lake, runs through the western part of Ithaca. Two creeks named Fall Creek and Cascadilla Creek also run through the town. Beebe Lake, which is connected to Fall Creek, is located in the northeast part of Ithaca.

Population of Ithaca

Ithaca Cornell Slope Day
Cornell Slope Day celebration in Ithaca. Editorial Credit: Lewis Liu /

Ithaca has a total population of 31,193. About 68% of the city’s residents are white, of which 64.4% are non-Hispanic and 4.05% are Hispanic. Asians make up 17.25% of Ithaca’s population, people of mixed racial background 5.75%, African Americans 5.26%, and other Hispanics 1.8%. About 77% of the city’s population speaks only English. Asian languages ​​are spoken by 12.4% of the population and Spanish by 3.1%. About 82% of Ithaca’s residents were born in the United States, while about 39% were born in the city. The majority of foreign-born residents of Ithaca come from Asia.

Economy of Ithaca

Ithaca’s main economic sectors are education, agriculture, technology, and tourism. The city is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College. Ithaca has also had a long association with the agricultural and dairy industries of central New York. About 60 small farms are located in the greater Ithaca/Trumansburg area. Cornell’s Dairy Research Facility is a research and support center for New York’s major dairy and yogurt industries. Ithaca’s main commercial areas are downtown and the neighborhood known as Collegetown, located adjacent to the Cornell campus. In terms of number of employees, Ithaca’s top industries are educational services, accommodation and food services, and retail.

History of Ithaca

The student walks past the statue of Ezra Cornell statue in Ithaca. Editorial credit: Amy Lutz /

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area that is now Ithaca was inhabited by Native Americans of the Cayuga Nation, one of the five nations that make up the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Some of the first Europeans to visit the region were Jesuit missionaries from New France (now Quebec) who attempted to convert the region’s natives to Christianity in the mid-17th century. In 1779, General John Sullivan and his troops drove Native Americans from the area during the American Revolutionary War and burned their orchards and cornfields.

The first white settlers arrived in the area in 1788, establishing farms in fields that expelled Native Americans had previously used. In 1790, however, when the US government titled Revolutionary War veterans in the area, these settlers had to relocate. Eight years later, Simeon DeWitt, a New York State Surveyor General, arrived in the area and quickly acquired over 2,000 acres of land at the south end of Cayuga Lake. At that time, the territory which today constitutes Ithaca was part of the city of Odysseus. In 1804, DeWitt named this region Ithaca, after the native island of Odysseus, a popular figure in Greek mythology.

However, Ithaca was not incorporated as a village until 1821, when it had a population of around 1,000. The new village grew rapidly with the opening of mills along the streams, which produced products such as flour, timber and whisky. Manufacturers like Ithaca Gun Company and Ithaca Calendar Clock have also established themselves in the village. In 1868 Cornell University was founded. By the 1880s, the village was a thriving community of around 12,000 people. Ithaca was reincorporated as a city in 1888. In 1892 the Ithaca Conservatory of Music was founded. It would later become Ithaca College.

By the turn of the century, the city’s population had reached 13,136. Twelve years later, Ithaca Municipal Airport was built. In 1941, as the United States entered World War II, Ithaca’s population numbered approximately 20,000. After World War II, a new era of development began. This new era included the introduction of air passenger service between Ithaca and New York. Jet service arrived in Ithaca in 1962.

In 1970, the city had 26,226 inhabitants. In 1974, the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall was built in the city’s downtown area. It remains a popular shopping district in Ithaca to this day. The 1990s saw the construction of several significant buildings, including Ithaca College’s state-of-the-art Science Building, a new United States Post Office, the Science Center, and a new terminal at Tompkins County Airport. In 2004, USA today ranked Ithaca number one on its list of “emerging cities”. In 2010, the city’s population exceeded 30,000.

Attractions in and around Ithaca

Waterfall cascading through Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, New York.

Ithaca is popular with tourists, as it and its surroundings contain notable attractions, both indoors and outdoors. Cultural venues in Ithaca include the State Theater of Ithaca, Cornell University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, Community School of Music & Art, Cornell Cinema, and Cinemapolis Movie Theater. Museums and art galleries include John Hartell Gallery, North Star Art Gallery, Gallery at the Ink Shop and Olive Branch Press, Corners Gallery, Museum of the Earth, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art ‘Cornell University and the Mink Gallery in the Garden.

Popular outdoor attractions in the Ithaca area include the Ithaca Waterfalls, which features 150 different waterfalls within a ten-mile radius. There is also Cayuga Lake, where visitors can swim, fish, boat and picnic. Wine connoisseurs would be wise to visit the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, the premier wine trail in the United States. Visitors to Ithaca can also visit several state parks, including Taghannock State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and Allan H. Marine State Park. Treman.

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