Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
An alter to water was once erected on a prominent Ithaca street corner
In 1896, fresh water suitable for drinking wasn't the easiest thing to come by in the city of Ithaca. A privately managed water supply from Buttermilk Creek and Six Mile Creek provided water for residents of the recently incorporated city. In 1894 there was a typhoid epidemic that many attributed to poor water quality. It seems that many men may have responded to questionable water quality by quenching their thirst in taverns. As it was socially unacceptable for women to do the same, many women became the sober witnesses to some additional problems that this was creating through the actions of some intoxicated men. Ithaca's chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, eventually to become the second largest in the nation, was a particularly active one. In 1896 they erected Ithaca's first public drinking fountain on a corner in front of the original City Hall as an effort, both symbolic and otherwise, to provide an alternative to the taverns. The fountain involved a statue of Hebe, Greek goddess of youth.
Ithaca’s Urban Renewal Legacy
Ithaca’s alter to water was eventually removed and in 1970 Ithaca’s first City Hall was also replaced by a parking garage as part of Ithaca’s Urban Renewal program.
Photo from Ithaca and its Past: the History and Architecture of Downtown by Daniel R. Snodderly,1982, Ithaca, NY : DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County (The History Center)
This point of interest is part of the tour: Nature and Culture of Downtown Ithaca - Visual Aids