Created By: Just Places Lab
408 N Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
Why does a city designate historic districts? It’s a solid strategy to manage change. Preservation conserves embodied carbon in place while maintaining valued community history.
Tompkins County shared plans to remove two buildings on Tioga Street for surface parking. One is considered a “contributing building” in the historic district - the “Red House.” According to the County website, “Tompkins County has not considered demolition of the structure at 408 N Tioga Street. Rather than demolish the structure, Tompkins County is considering deconstruction, a method of dismantling the building while salvaging architectural elements or reusable materials for future use in the community. Deconstruction is a concept being embraced by Tompkins County following the 2022 ReUse Summit and a presentation on deconstruction that cites successful deconstruction efforts of older buildings in the Collegetown neighborhood. The structure (former Baker Dental Office building) at 412 N Tioga Street is slated to be deconstructed following a resolution of the Tompkins County Legislature in 2022.”
As for the “Red House,” deconstruction is an improvement over demolition, but it is not enough. The building has been designated as contributing to the City of Ithaca’s DeWitt Park Historic District. The Italianate-style residence at 408 N Tioga Street, also known as the “Red House,” was built circa 1870 for prominent Ithaca businessman Henry L. Wilgus and designed by local architect A.B. Dale. Wilgus owned a dry goods store, now demolished, on E State Street on what is today The Commons. During the 1950s, the property was converted into a multi-unit apartment building. The story of the “Red House” could represent a preservation success, a deconstruction failure, or worse, a demolition.
In demolishing the “Red House,” the County would defy the City of Ithaca's historic designation. While deconstruction is preferable to demolition, the deconstruction of a designated historic building, such as the “Red House,” would be a tragic outcome. Deconstruction will produce more waste than preserving and reusing the structure in place. A surface parking lot would be a real shame and detriment to sustainability efforts. Historic Ithaca has proposed returning the building to its original use as a residence.
Read more about the Red House and demolition concerns at the Ithaca Voice.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Waste(d) Imagination Tour