Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
This building, the so-called "Sphinx Head Tomb," was built in 1926 by the Sphinx Head Society, an honorary organization for male undergraduates at Cornell.
Originally built as a single, windowless room, it was designed in the Egyptian Revival style and was intended to resemble an Egyptian tomb. It is one of only two Egyptian Revival style buildings in Ithaca. The other is the Masonic Temple on North Cayuga Street.
J. Lakin Baldridge, a Sphinx Head alumnus and member of the Cornell Class of 1915, designed the building, which was used by the society until 1969. Cornell design instructor Stephen Mensch bought the building in 1978 and spent three years converting it into a private residence. The house was occupied for many years by noted astronomer Carl Sagan and his wife and co-author, Ann Druyan.
The house sits below street level on the edge of Fall Creek gorge and is hidden by foliage throughout much of the year. It is best viewed from across the gorge, at the south end of the Stewart Avenue bridge.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Cornell Heights Historic District Driving Tour