Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
This house was built in 1936 for Cora Perry Morse, widow of industrialist Frank L. Morse, president of Morse Chain Company. It was designed by Carl Tallman and built on a large lot that the Morse family had owned for several years, stretching between Highland and Ridgewood roads.
Frank Morse and his brother Fleet, an inventor, were born and raised in Ithaca. Their father, Ben Morse, ran a mill on East Hill and was a principal founder of the local Unitarian Church.
Fleet conceived his first invention--an improvement on the horse-drawn hay rake--when he was sixteen. Royalties from this invention helped pay for his tuition at Cornell. By 1890 he was manufacturing and selling equalizing springs for horse-drawn carts in a factory in Trumansburg.
Soon thereafter he invented an improved bicycle chain based on a rocker joint, which became the basis for the Morse Manufacturing Company. By 1897 he had adapted the rocker joint to the arch link and formed a new company--Morse Chain--to manufacture chains for bicycles and for the general transmission of power. By 1906, the company had outgrown its plant in Trumansburg and moved to Ithaca, to a large new concrete factory building on South Hill.
Known primarily as producers of chain for the front-end drive mechanisms of automobiles, the Morse Chain Company also produced airplanes. In 1917 Frank Morse solidified a merger with the Thomas brothers (originally from England, they had ended up in Bath, New York) who were producing a biplane in Ithaca called the "Scout." By April 1917 the Thomas-Morse Aircraft Company employed 2,000 men in the production of planes and chains.
Frank Morse assumed presidency of the company upon Fleet's death in 1913. That same year, he commissioned a large home at 55 Ridgewood Road, where he and his wife lived for many years.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Cornell Heights Historic District Driving Tour