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Ithaca: 1901

Ithaca: 1901

State Street in Ithaca, N.Y., circa 1901. Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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A different perspective

I took a pic of that same spot as well:

The photo was probably taken with a large-format camera that had perspective controls. It's very hard to do that with a 35mm SLR -- you would need a tilt-shift lens and there aren't any that are really wide enough. I tried to do it by stitching several photos together in Photoshop and adjust perspective, but it's not really very good.

That photo, the old one, is really amazing. It was taken by a professional, to be sure!

Ithaca Streetcars

Ithaca streetcars seem to have been electrified from the outset.

In the year 1887-88 the first track was laid, extending from the Ithaca Hotel to the railroad stations at the foot of State street. On the 1st of May, 1891, the franchises and property of the old company were transferred to the present organization, and on the 1st of June, 1892, the company purchased the franchise and property of the Brush-Swan Electric Light Company, which it still owns. That company had used electricity on the street cars under the unsatisfactory Daft system stem since January 4. 1888. The Brush-Swan system was adopted in 1891.

-- "Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York" by John H. Selkreg, 1894

The Daft system apparently used a low-voltage third-rail power - which had to be a problem in snowy Ithaca. It's possible that Brush-Swan was a battery system, which would explain the lack of overhead wires.


In addition to the buildings, the bicycles have remained a presence in Ithaca. People bike everywhere, which is somewhat incomprehensible to me in a town that has as many hills as Ithaca. What has not remained the same is the level of dress (although that is true of nearly every locale pictured on Shorpy). Still, if someone wore a suit in Ithaca, they'd probably stop traffic. The type of stores on this street has changed as well. I'm guessing Ithaca Hemp Company would not have been nearly so popular at the turn of the previous century as it is with the hippies that largely make up the town now.

To R-Spice: I hope that you retain that enthusiasm for Cornell after you've been here awhile (and particularly through your first winter). Good luck!

Wide Angle?

Seems to be a fairly wide angle shot, without the 'fish eye' type distortion at the edges of the pic. Was there something different about lenses, apertures or cameras then?

[This is the "look" characteristic of just about any large view camera. - Dave]

Beer Dog

Can any Cornelians verify the legend of the dog who lived in one of the frat houses on campus and would ride a streetcar into town by himself every day to drink beer at one of the bars?

My dad, btw, graduated from the university 40 years after this picture was made.

Those two guys

I don't like either one of those two guys walking on the right
No, not at all.

Las Vegas

What's cooking?

The "Now You're Cooking" building in the modern photo looks completely different from the building in that spot in the 1901 photo, and - strangely - it looks older. I like the nice curved windows at the top.

Comparing photos

This has to be my favorite then and now comparison of the same area. Great work. The popular priced clothiers at P. Rascover have been replaced by the hip sounding Loose Threads, but the mannequins have stayed! The woman on the right with the parasol has a 2009 counterpart in almost the exact same spot, but now with a messenger bag.

Then and Now

Here's a picture taken today from as near as I can get to the same spot. The conversion of State Street to the Commons back in the mid-1970's has blocked the long vista down the street, but many of the buildings are still identifiable. Click to enlarge.

[Great photo. Thanks! - Dave]

Behind the Times

I'm surprised that a prosperous Northern city still had horsecars in 1901, many cities electrified their trolleys in the 1890's, if I remember correctly.


What a great scene! One doesn't think of 1901 daily life having a lot of bicycling as primary transportation. But just look at
all the bikes on the street!

I'm curious yellow....

That's a scene one doesn't see anymore, a sparrow hittin' on mashed horse apples on the street. Puzzles me however, how to understand the relection of the gent on the bicycle in the window and how it relates to his actual position on the street, an optical illusion of sorts?

Far above Cayuga's waters

with her waves of blue
stands our noble alma mater
glorious to view!

Well not yet my alma mater, its quite interesting to see a view of Ithaca, where I'm going to be spending the next four years of my life, from over a century ago. To think Cornell was only 36 years old when this picture was taken! BTW the guy in the beanie was probably an alumnus of Cornell. Ithaca College was a tiny music conservatory until 1931.

Nice perspective

Beautiful composition. The city before it was cluttered with cars is lovely.

"Cars stop here"

What about the wagons -- they had the right of way?

["Cars" meant streetcars. It was a "car stop." - Dave]

Ithaca Commons

North Tioga

This appears to be Ithaca Commons looking east toward North Tioga Street from Cayuga Street. Some of the buildings still look the same.


I can see at least four bicycles. The 1890's were the "Golden Age of the Bicycle," with the invention of the double-triangle frame and the pneumatic tire both less than 15 years old in 1901.

Rat Cap!

We had to wear freshman beanies like that back in the late 1940s in Florida.

Ithaca Commons

I believe this is the part of State St. that is now the Ithaca Commons, with this view looking east up the hill towards Cornell. If I'm wrong, someone correct me. Awesome photo.

Calling all Keystones

As any silent film fan knows, the window washers, the dog, the well-dressed ladies and the unattended bicycle can only spell trouble. Throw in the barrels, the trolley tracks, plus the horse droppings, and you've got an epic scene on your hands.

They've Got Moxie

and they'd probably sell it to you, too.

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