The Sprague House

The Henry St. John District Historic Walking Tour

The Sprague House

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage


The crown jewel of the Henry St. John neighborhood, this palatial Second Empire structure at 304 North Titus Avenue was built in 1871. Known as the Sprague House, it is of wood frame construction with a dressed stone foundation and a complex plan. Note the cast-iron cresting of the central tower and the band of zigzag wood trim between its third and fourth stories. Also of note is the variety of window types (two-over-two, one-over-one, tall, short, arched, dormered, etc.) that nonetheless maintain architectural unity by their ubiquitous wood surrounds, particularly the hoods. The corner-facing entry porch features paneled square posts, decorative bracing, turned balusters, and lattice panels enclosing the space underneath. On the north side (which is a later addition), this detailing is matched on the porch and porte-cochère, which also features a sunburst motif.

The Sprague House was built by Charles Titus, the developer who first channeled Six Mile Creek, which is just across the street. Culverting Six Mile allowed for the development of the neighborhood south of Clinton Street, beginning with the Sprague House. Titus quickly sold the house to his sister-in-law, Louisa Sprague, and her husband Joseph. Joseph, despite only living in Ithaca for seven years, was one of the town's most influential citizens, serving first as village trustee, then village president. The Spragues owned a substantial tract of land around the house, which was landscaped and opened to the public. Interestingly, when livestock soon ruined the landscaping, Sprague passed the first ordinance forbidding the free roaming of grazing animals in the city.

Joseph died in 1878 at age 52, while traveling for business. Louisa continued to live in the home until her death in 1905, adding the additions on the north side of the house around 1890. The property was sold to a local minister, Edward Sabin (1843-1914), in 1907, then to Hermon Brockway (ca. 1874-1956), a Methodist minister and real estate agent, in 1921. The property was regularly subdivided during this time, with most of the surrounding homes being built between 1910-1930. By 1942 the house contained a few apartments, and in 1969 it was converted to ten rental units. Despite all these changes, it is a remarkably intact building.

This point of interest is part of the tour: The Henry St. John District Historic Walking Tour


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