Featured Tours


Historic Bridges in Tompkins County, NY Tour

Each stop on the tour highlights one of Tompkins County's historical bridges, showing how it has been either altered or preserved over the years.


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William Henry Miller Lower Collegetown Architecture Walking Tour

William Henry Miller (1848-1922) was one of Ithaca's most prolific local architects, dramatically reshaping the skyline of Ithaca and Cornell University.


Barns of Tompkins County

This driving tour is based on the "Barns of Tompkins County: Self-Guided Driving Tour" prepared by Historic Ithaca and the New York State Barn Coalition in 2008.


Ithaca College: A Walking Tour of Its Downtown Roots

Ithaca College began modestly in 1892 as the Ithaca Conservatory of Music, founded in downtown Ithaca by a local musician, violinist William Grant Egbert. This walking tour begins at the Boardman House on DeWitt Park and includes many college landmarks

Featured peRSOns

 East hill classic jazz band.

East hill classic jazz band.

east hill classic jazz band

Johnny Russo is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. He was trombonist with the Eastman Wind Ensemble and the Eastman Philharmonia Orchestra where he had the privilege of performing the "Firebird Suite" under the baton of the composer Igor Stravinsky.

Russo founded his East Hill Classic Jazz Band in Ithaca NY in the mid-1980's. Throughout the years over 50 musicians have worked with Johnny Russo.

The history of the East Hill Classic Jazz Band in Ithaca/Tompkins musical history is unique holding several records, concerts at Taughannock, more CU fraternity socials/reunions than any previous group.

Between 1978 and 2008, musician composer Johnny Russo, inspired by life in Ithaca, NY, Tompkins County, Ithaca’s abundant natural beauty, institutions, the special people who inhabit its unique place in the Finger Lakes of Central New York, created numerous songs.

A new book  Ithaca Our Home published earlier this year,  reflects the memorable history of Russo’s East Hill Classic Jazz Band along with an 18-song CD of original songs inspired by the Finger Lakes and its community.


 Ithaca Journal Ad, December 6, 1928

Ithaca Journal Ad, December 6, 1928


STATE THEATRE, 107 W. State Street, Ithaca

At the height of the cinema craze, Ithaca had several movie palaces, including the Star, the Crescent, and the Strand. The State Theatre is the only one of these downtown venues that still survives as an operating theatrical venue. But, in fact, it started its days in 1915 as a car dealership and auto repair shop that specialized in Studebakers. It was designed by Henry N. Hinckley, a 1911 Cornell architecture grad.

The garage was converted to a theatre in 1928, during the 1920s shift from vaudeville to moving pictures. Well-known theater architect Victor Rigaumont, who had offices in Pittsburgh, PA, was in charge of its conversion from auto dealership to theatre. Rigaumont kept the exterior minimally altered but transformed the interior into a “feast for the senses.” The architect incorporated Moorish and Renaissance Revival styles. He also added Collegiate Gothic symbolism to recognize the presence of Cornell University. The final design created a richly ornamented, atmospheric cinema and vaudeville palace.

By the 1990s, only the State remained of the original movie palaces. But it had been vacant for a long time and was in desperate need of restoration. In 1996, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A year later the City condemned the building. In 1998 Historic Ithaca purchased the theater through a mix of a New York State matching grant and from contributions from supporters. With a mix of grants, both public and private, and community generosity, Historic Ithaca began restoration. The theatre reopened to a packed audience in 2001, and the next phase of restoration work started in the following year. In 2009, Historic Ithaca sold the theatre to the State of Ithaca, Inc, a newly formed non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and operation of this historic gem.

The State Theatre celebrates its 90th birthday in December with its 90th Anniversary Gala, An Evening with Don McLean, on December 9. The History Center in Tompkins County hosts the Hometown Music Makers’ Revue on December 8 to showcase local music heritage.



Tompkins County’s voice for historic preservation, education, and sustainability.


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