Created By: Ithaca Heritage
Date: June 30, 1988
Location: 132-4 West State Street, Ithaca
A fire that started at 6:00 am burned for nearly the whole day and destroyed the popular nightclub and bar Common Ground, at 132-134 W. State Street. Firefighters determined the official cause to be a burning mattress on the third floor. However, some local community members believed it to be arson, due to an unexplained ten foot hole in the dance floor and fire in the basement. A candlelight vigil was held the night of the fire to commemorate Common Ground.
Founded by gay couple Doug Miller and Kris Marshall in 1978, Common Ground was a fixture in the LGTQ+ community and well-known for its salsa nights. The owners themselves did not classify it as a gay bar and emphasized that everyone was welcome. As Miller himself stated: “The whole purpose behind naming it ‘Common Ground’ was to bring in all different types of people from all different walks of life. Gay, straight, old, young, men, women, anything, all different types of occupations, students as well as townspeople — all in one place to have a fun time.” Following the fire, Common Ground relocated to Danby Road, and in 2008 the nightclub changed ownership and was renamed Oasis.
Images courtesy of The History Center in Tompkins County.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Finding Fires - Tompkins County