Historic Ithaca's Plain Street Mural

History & Art in Downtown Ithaca

Historic Ithaca's Plain Street Mural

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage


Historic Ithaca’s Plain Street Mural was painted in 2011 by local artist Mary Beth Ihnken to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Significant Elements Architectural Salvage Warehouse, which is located inside the building. In addition to running Significant Elements, Historic Ithaca advocates for historic buildings, sites, and landscapes, and maintains a library and archive of information related to buildings and sites in Tompkins County. The mural depicts the history of the warehouse (built around 1880) at 212 Center Street, used at different points in time to house undergarment and carriage manufacturing, iron work, airplane engine testing, and furniture. The mural was funded through grants from Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund, The Service League, and sponsored by Benjamin Moore, Ithaca Paint & Decorating Inc., and individual donations.

The central image in the mural is a horse-drawn wagon, with the words “Pritchard & Son, Carriages and Wagons” painted on its side. From 1901 to 1914, the warehouse was the property of Pritchard & Son, who used it as a repository for carriages and wagons. Pritchard & Son is still in business today as Pritchard Automotive (located at 304 S. Cayuga Street), managed and operated by the fourth and fifth generation of the same Pritchard family that first started Pritchard & Son over 120 years ago.

From 1915 to 1918, the building was used by the Burns Brothers (John and William), who were blacksmiths, horseshoers, and wood and iron workers. There is an anvil in the bottom right of the mural inscribed with the words “Burns Bros” to honor their time in the building.

During WWI, the Thomas-Morse Aircraft Company used the warehouse space to test engine parts for their airplanes, which included the “Tommy” plane (as it was affectionately known by World War I pilots) shown at the top of the mural. The Thomas-Morse Scouts were designed and built in Ithaca at the Thomas-Morse Aircraft Corporation in the 1910s. Tommy was a WWI pursuit trainer on which most American pilots trained at bases throughout the US before flying in Europe. Of the approximately 600 planes built before WWI ended, fewer than 14 of these planes exist today. One surviving Tommy was donated to the Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation (IAHF) in 2009 by Dr. William Thibault of Newport Beach, CA. Over the next fourteen years, this Tommy was lovingly and painstakingly restored to authentic factory condition by the IAHF volunteers. Tommy was flown for its 100th anniversary on September 29, 2018, at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, soaring over the same skies it was built under 100 years before. This Tommy is now on permanent loan from IAHF and displayed at The History Center in Tompkins County on the Ithaca Commons.

From 1921 to 1922, the building was owned as a branch location for Miller Corset Company, a corset manufacturer based in Cortland, NY. The only allusion to this period in the building’s history is the corset worn by the lady sitting in the Pritchard & Son carriage.

From 1924 to 1956, Ithaca Delivery and Storage was based here, providing motor freight services throughout New York State. The inscription with this name is on the paper airplane included in the far right corner of the mural.

Also inscribed on the paper airplane on the left is Harbeck Paper Co., who owned the building from 1957 to 1977. Harbeck Paper Co. was a wholesale paper dealer.

The three windows in the mural each show houses from Center Street in the 1880s when the building was first built.


This point of interest is part of the tour: History & Art in Downtown Ithaca


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