Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
The oldest Gothic Revival courthouse in the state, this building was built in 1854 and served as the county’s second courthouse. Designed by John F. Maurice, a Union Springs architect, it replaced a small, cheap wooden Greek Revival building that had been hastily built in 1818 to ensure that Ithaca would become the county seat. Simeon DeWitt (arguably, the main non-Native founder of Ithaca), who laid out the early village of Ithaca, gave the land to the county. When the new courthouse was built in 1932, the county exchanged the building for another lot. Public outcry forced the county to buy it back in 1934, however, and the building has housed county offices since then. The second-floor courtroom is especially handsome. The room originally featured an open timber (cathedral) roof, but an attic and the present ceiling were added during the Victorian period because of the high heating costs. The large brackets are part of the original roof trusses. The building was completely renovated in 1975-76 as a Bicentennial project.
The Tompkins County Planning Department occupies the ground-level floor, and the second-level houses the newly renovated county Legislature Chambers. The chambers were relocated from the County Courthouse Building next door, which had housed the Legislature for about 80 years, until mid-June 2013.
The 2012 to mid-2013 renovations added new interior wood trim, four private offices, fresh paint, lighting, audiovisual equipment, seating, legislature desks and chairs, the bench, gallery seating, and new flooring. HOLT Architects (the renovation designer) has some nice images here.The project won one of Historic Ithaca's annual preservation awards.
Click "Play Audio" to hear more from Christine O'Malley.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Downtown Ithaca Architectural Tour