Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
Source: Henry St. John Local Historic District Nomination, Sara Johnson and Kristen Olson, Historic Ithaca, Inc., 2012.
Number 125 W. Green Street is located on a wide lot at the southeast corner of West Green and South Geneva streets. This property is one of a series of houses along West Green Street that mark the transition from Ithaca’s commercial core to the primarily residential neighborhood of the Henry St. John district south of Green Street. It is a two-story house of brick construction, built in 1869 in the Italianate style. The house has a shallow T-plan, with one-bay wings projecting east and west from the central three-bay section. There is a shallow two-story addition on the south (rear) façade.
Roofs of all sections are flat or very-low pitched hipped roofs with overhanging eaves and a narrow dentil-topped cornice. Walls are brick, except for the wood-clad bay window on the west façade, the wood shingle-clad second story of the north addition, and the cupola. Windows are tall, symmetrically arranged, and appear singly. They are typically 2-over-2 with ornate cast-iron hoods and sills. The raised foundation is stone. A brick interior chimney projects from the roof of the north section of the house. A square cupola projects from the center of the roof. It has a low-pitched hipped roof with overhanging eaves and a group of three round arch-topped windows on each side.
The main section of the primary (north) façade is three bays wide, with an ornate entryway in the east bay. A flat-roofed portico supported by scrolled wood brackets shelters the Italianate-style molded door surround and a pair of heavy carved wood double doors. The doors are not glazed but are topped by a transom or top light.
The single-bay east wing is set back deeply to the south, wide enough to contain only one window. A secondary entrance is located near the north corner of the east bay.
The single-bay west wing is also set back to the south but is slightly wider, containing a single glazed door on the north façade. A double-deck porch runs from the north façade of the main section to the north façade of the west wing. Both stories of the porch have flat roofs with a narrow dentil cornice supported by square posts with chamfered corners. Single low-arch brackets extend from post to post, and low balustrades with turned balusters are between posts. The four-bay west façade of the west wing has a shallow one-story bay window immediately south of the porch and regularly spaced windows across the rest of the façade. A shallow, two-story addition projects north from the north façade, recessed from the west façade. Its second story is clad in alternating bands of rectangular and fishscale wood shingles. A single stained glass Queen Anne-style window is located on the second story.
A small lawn and large gravel driveway and parking area are north of the house.
Number 125 West Green Street is architecturally significant as an excellent example of a substantial brick Italianate style residence, one of the few brick residences in the district and in the "Flats" of Ithaca. It has a high level of integrity and retains nearly all of its original exterior features.
Number 125 West Green Street is historically significant for its association with a series of prominent Ithacans: Albert Philips, William O. Wyckoff, and Clement T. Stephens. Albert H. Philips, a tailor and purveyor of men’s clothing, purchased the lot from Sarah Beebe in 1868. The existing house was constructed in 1869, replacing an earlier structure on the same lot that appears on the 1851 and 1853 maps of Ithaca, as well as in the 1866 Atlas of Tompkins County. The Ithaca Journal and Ithaca Democrat reported on the progress of the house beginning in April 1869, when it was noted that construction had begun on Albert Philips’ “fine brick house.” The mason for the house was Caleb Earl (who lived at 120 W. Clinton Street), the carpentry work was by Hyatt & Oltz, and the marble mantels were made by H.G. Goodrich. Philips moved into the house in December 1869.
Philips’ store, Philips & Son, was located on East State Street from the early 1860s through 1879. His son Albert H. Philips was his partner in the business until the elder Philips’ death in 1879 and the bankruptcy of the business that same year.
In July 1872, Philips sold the property to William O. Wyckoff. Wyckoff was the official stenographer of the sixth judicial district, and this role is reported to have led to his 1877 purchase of early Remington typewriters to hasten the transcription of court notes. He opened a sales and repair office for Remington typewriters and a business called the Phonographic Institute that provided instruction in spelling, grammar, manuscript copying, and dictation. An 1878 advertisement in the Ithaca directory proclaimed “The Bell Telephone!” and “Magnetto calls” were available to the public at the Phonographic Institute. In the late 1870s Wyckoff purchased the Ilion, New York, Remington production facility in partnership with Clarence W. Seamans and Henry H. Benedict. The partners later purchased the rights to sell the typewriters worldwide, opened a sales office at 327 Broadway in New York City, and opened braches of the Phonographic Institute in other cities. The popularization of the typewriter led to the expansion of secretarial schools and secretarial work, which became a socially acceptable occupation for women.
During Wyckoff’s ownership, the lot was enlarged by the purchase of small sections of William S. Cowles’ lot to the east and Mary Newman’s lot to the south. Wyckoff also owned 222 S. Geneva Street from 1870 to 1890. William O. Wyckoff’s son Edward G. Wyckoff worked as the central New York manager of Wyckoff, Seamans, Benedict. He was a partner in the Cornell Heights Land Co., which owned and subdivided the area north of the Cornell campus across Fall Creek gorge for development beginning in 1897. Cornell Heights is now a designated local, State, and National Register Historic District.
In June 1897, Edward G. Wyckoff, as executor of his father’s estate, sold 125 W. Green Street to Clement T. Stephens for $7,250. Stephens owned an agricultural warehouse on West State Street and in the late 1890s was a partner in Stephens & Masters, a hardware store at the corner of State and Aurora streets. He previously owned and lived at 213 S. Albany Street, which he sold in March 1897 for $2,750. Though the Stephens family retained ownership of the property through 1938, it appears that they later rented the house to tenants. In 1938, the house was purchased by Vincenzo Macera, owner of the Oriental Hotel.
Building Type: Residence
Construction: Two-story brick structure
Residents in 1910
Name Sex Age Relation Profession
Susan M. Stephens F 56 Head Own Income
Fitch H. Stephens M 27 Son Lawyer
This point of interest is part of the tour: HistoryForge Day 2017: Connecting the Generations