Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
The Southside neighborhood has an African American heritage that dates back 180 years. In 1833, the Southside neighborhood became home to the St. James African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, one of the first AME Zion churches in the United States. The St. James AME Zion Church still stands on Cleveland Avenue and is the oldest existing church in Ithaca. In addition to providing a place for community and worship, St. James was also an integral part of the Underground Railroad. It is thought that many fleeing slaves would hide there and some chose to settle in Ithaca. Noted abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass spoke there.
In 1938, the Southside Community Center was established as a place for the African American community to participate in activities of all kinds, including hiking clubs, cooking classes, and sports. The Southside Community Center still organizes many important programs and activities for the residents of the neighborhood.
Southside was also the location of the Reconstruction Home, which opened in the Bostwick House on South Albany Street in 1920. As the country’s first facility designed for the after-care of polio patients, it attracted many famous visitors, including Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Reconstruction Home quickly expanded, sometimes hosting more than 100 patients, requiring a new section to be built in 1962. In the 1980s, a modern three-story building replaced the old Reconstruction Home. Today, it is the location of the Beechtree Care Center for Alzheimer’s patients.
This point of interest is part of the tour: HistoryForge Day 2017: Connecting the Generations