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Facts & Trivia

Ithaca Q&As

Where did the name "Ithaca" come from?

Ithaca takes its name from the Greek island of Ithaca in Homer's Odyssey.

Where is Ithaca, NY located?

Ithaca is located in the Finger Lakes Region of central New York State, four hours from New York City, three hours from Niagara Falls, two hours from Rochester and four hours from Philadelphia. Learn more about land acknowledgment from The History Center in Tompkins County.

What is the Finger Lakes Region in NY?

The Finger Lakes Region is comprised of 11 lakes across 14 counties, which occupy 9,000 square miles, roughly comparable in size to the states of New Hampshire or New Jersey.

Is there a lake near Ithaca?

Ithaca, NY sits at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, the longest of the 11 Finger Lakes.

Where does Cayuga Lake get its name from?

Cayuga Lake is named after the Cayuga Nation. The Cayuga Nation is a member of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois. The Haudenosaunee is an alliance of Native Nations that reside in the state of New York; this confederacy includes the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida  Mohawk and the Tuscarora.

What county is Ithaca in?

Ithaca, NY is the largest city in Tompkins County.

What is the population of Ithaca, NY?

Ithaca has a population of roughly 31,000 residents. The Ithaca area offers the best of small-town life with the cultural qualities of a larger metropolitan city due to its universities and colleges.

Who are some famous Ithacans?

Famous Ithacans include "Roots" author Alex Haley, astronomer Carl Sagan, television writer Rod Serling, and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz.

What colleges and universities are in and around Ithaca?

Cornell University and Ithaca College are the two largest schools in Ithaca, and Tompkins-Cortland Community College is the area's community college.

Who are some famous or notable Cornell University alumni?

Famous Cornell University alumni include Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court), Bill Nye (the Science Guy), Bill Maher (comedian and television host), and Christopher Reeve (actor, Superman), among many others.

Who are some famous or notable Ithaca College alumni?

Famous Ithaca College alumni include Bob Iger (CEO of The Walt Disney Company), Gavin DeGraw (musical artist, though he did not graduate), Ben Feldman (Emmy nominated actor, Superstore), and David Boreanaz (actor, Bones), among many others.

How far is Ithaca from major nearby cities?

Ithaca is 227 miles from NYC, 231 miles from Philadelphia, and 251 miles (408 km) from Toronto.

Ithaca Fun Facts

  • Ithaca is famous for its many waterfalls, more than 100 within 10 miles of downtown. If you put them all together, it's a waterfall 7,342 feet tall. That's 1.39 miles of falling water!
  • The city's modern history began in the late 18th Century when Congress awarded Revolutionary War soldiers land grants (in lieu of combat pay) to settle the area. Local deeds are still based on the original "Military Tract," designated in 1790.
  • An intrepid boater can cast off from Ithaca and cruise the storied Erie Canal system all the way to NYC and the Atlantic Ocean. Westbound, the canal leads boaters into the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Moosewood Restaurant, famous for its award-winning vegetarian cookbooks, has been an Ithaca landmark since 1973.
  • Ithaca was a film capital from 1913-1920 with numerous silent films produced at Wharton Studios in Stewart Park.
  • Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum was a likely visitor to Ithaca while his future wife attended Cornell University. At the time, yellow bricks paved local roads.
  • Dr. Robert A. Moog, founder of Moog Music and the inventor of the legendary Moog synthesizer received his Ph.D. from Cornell in engineering physics in 1965 and was a longtime resident of Trumansburg, N.Y. Cornell University now houses his archives.
  • Ithaca had its own currency, "Ithaca Hours." This alternative legal tender was widely used in town and has been featured in over 400 media outlets nationally and abroad.
  • The Ithaca Gun Company, whose namesake smokestack remains a local landmark, was established in 1880 and produced some of the world's finest shotguns. Among its patrons were John Philip Sousa and Annie Oakley. The long-closed factory is now being converted to residential use.

Famous Ithaca Discoveries & Creations

First Ice Cream Sundae

The first Ice Cream Sundae was invented by a local fountain owner Chester Platt and Unitarian reverend John Scott on April 3, 1892.

First French-bread Pizza

The first French-bread pizza was created at Cornell University by Bob Petrillose as a cheaper pizza option for college students, well before Stouffer's made their frozen version!

America's First Electric Street Lamps

America's first electric street lamps lit the Cornell Campus in the winter of 1875-'76.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was rediscovered (maybe) by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in 2005.

"Puff the Magic Dragon" Origin

The song "Puff the Magic Dragon" was penned in Ithaca. Cornell Student Lenny Lipton wrote it as a poem and passed it on to Peter Yarrow, who later turned it into a song in the Peter, Paul and Mary classic.

Famous Novel "Lolita"

Novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote "Lolita" in Ithaca - and he almost burned it here after the story was rejected by every American publisher. His wife changed literary history when she pulled the manuscript from the incinerator behind their rented house on East Seneca Street.

Get More Ithaca Facts

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