Created By: Ithaca Heritage
Dr. Samantha Nivison (1833-1906) came to Tompkins County after graduating from the Female Medical College in Pennsylvania in 1855. She was a staunch advocate for training young women in the medical profession and providing health care to historically marginalized populations. As the first woman to practice medicine in Tompkins County, Dr. Nivison led pioneering efforts to promote preventative health and the advancement of opportunities for women that were ahead of the social and medical practices of her time.
In 1862, she established a water-cure sanitarium in Dryden that was so successful that she attempted to open a larger institution in Ithaca. Originally supported by Ezra Cornell, her plan for a new water-cure sanitarium and school for women doctors collapsed due to lack of funding as he redirected his efforts to the founding of Cornell University. She later established another sanitarium in Hammonton, New Jersey.
The building originally planned to house Nivison’s medical facility in Ithaca was constructed in 1866 and became absorbed into the newly chartered Cornell University as its first multipurpose building and dormitory. Cascadilla Hall, as it was named for its proximity to the Cascadilla Gorge, continues to stand as a testament of Dr. Nivison’s ambition and vision to improve society. It was constructed with locally quarried stone in the French Second Empire style. In 1981, it underwent a dramatic renovation which added a floor to its mansard roof and demolished the original chimneys.
Source: History Center in Tompkins County & Cornell University
This point of interest is part of the tour: Ithaca Women of Note