Random Ithacana

18 12 2009

So, pardon the extraordinarily long break. Finals and research brought much of my outside life to a screeching halt, so this blog had to take a backseat for a couple of weeks. Oddly enough, site statistics didn’t really go down a significant amount, which probably says something about the consistent use of the historical info on this blog.

Anyways, during my holiday shopping, I happened upon a new little book that I felt the need to add to my collection. The book, Surrounded by Reality: 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Ithaca, NY (But Are About to Find Out) by Michael Turback, is a nice little book detailing some of the history and sights of the area. Some of the book entries share the same information that has previously been shared on this blog, but there was some new information to be garnered from its pages.

A lot of the book focuses on Cornell. Things that a lot of Cornellians already knew about the founder and A.D. White, but also some more obscure details. For example, a real description of Zinck’s. Theodore Zinck ran the “Lager Beer Saloon and Restaurant” out of the Hotel Brunswick at 108-110 N. Aurora (just off the current-day Commons) starting in 1880. Contrary to modern day bar-hopping, Zincl, while described as being a fatherly and caring figure who treated his customers with “Prussian high-handedness”. Customers could be thrown out of his bar, however, for drunkenness, bawdy songs, or derogatory references to the German Kaiser. The first Zinck’s operated until about 1903. That year, a typhoid epidemic rages through the city and claimed 85 lives, including Theodore Zinck’s daughter. Despondent, he drowned himself, effectively shutting down Zinck’s first incarnation. The bar reopened under his name in 1906 (which would be incredibly tasteless if he wasn’t regarded so affectionately), and continued in operation in some form in different names and places up to about 1967. Although, with the coming of the new Hotel Ithaca, it appears we may continue the local tradition of naming revered watering holes after a suicidal barkeep.

Another detail that the book referenced was the freezing over of Cayuga Lake. Cayuga Lake is about 435 feet deep, so usually the massive heat storage of the water keeps the lake from completely freezing over during the winter. However, that isn’t to say it can’t happen. Since 1796, the lake has frozen over about ten times (1796, 1816, 1856, 1875, 1884, 1904, 1912, 1934, 1961 and 1979). Wells College, a small and formerly all-female school located further up the lakeshore in Aurora, has a school tradition where if the lake is discovered to be frozen over, classes are cancelled for the day (there is no such tradition for IC or Cornell). According to the book, during the 1875 freeze one athletic young woman at Wells decided to celebrate the day off by skating down the lake and back. Not too shabby, once you consider that the lake is just under 40 miles long.

One last one for the road; most Cornellians are well aware of the legend that if a virgin crosses the Arts Quad at midnight, Ezra and A.D. White will step off their pedestals and shake hands in the center of the quad. Wll, as it turns out, Ithaca College has their won virginity legend. Outside of Ithaca College’s Textor Hall stands a 10-foot high ball sculpture mounted over a small pool of water. Their campus legend states that if a virgin ever graduates from IC, the “Textor Ball” will fall off its pedestal and roll down South Hill. According to Wikipedia, Ithaca College has 49,570 alumni, and I’m willing to bet most of them are from after the school’s 1960s expansion and relocation.


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