Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
Henry William Sage was an ambitious eighteen year-old in 1832, when he first came to Ithaca to work for his uncles in the canal trade. Forty-some years later, having developed a prosperous business empire in the meantime, Sage returned to Ithaca to accept a position on Cornell University’s Board of Trustees.
When Sage moved to Ithaca from Brooklyn, in 1875, he hired William Henry Miller to design a family compound that would reflect his prosperity. This was one of Miller’s most important early commissions and included not only the twenty-room, English Revival house you see here but also a house for his son at 603 East Seneca Street (Stop 18), a house for his sister at 505 East Seneca Street (Stop 19), and a carriage house (Stop 16).
The red sandstone house, where Sage and his wife lived, has a commanding view of the city. From the front lawn you can see the wide stick porch, a large decorative wooden truss at the top of the center gable, and a bay window beneath it. Other distinctive features include the beautiful stonework on the massive chimneys and –at the entrance- the hammered and tooled radial blocks of the arch, the carved door panels, and the “Victorian” hardware.
The hooded third story windows are decorated with stained glass birds and flowers and are best viewed from inside the house. A large entrance hall provided access to all the main parlors and the dining room. The interior woodwork is cherry and oak.
Sage became president of the Cornell Board of Trustees in 1874, when Ezra Cornel died. He made many financial and material contributions to the university including his house, which he willed to Cornell for use as a student infirmary. Sage’s wife died in 1885; he died twelve years later.
The Mission style addition on the northwest corner of the house/infirmary was built in 1925.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Lower East Hill Historic District