The cobblestone entry area in front of the Fitness Center/Entry Pavilion is called “Mitchell Plaza” and contains interpretive elements from the Jane A Delano home that was demolished for construction. The home served as a residence for nurses and nursing students for the nearby Ithaca City Hospital, named for Jane Delano, whom almost single-handedly created the American Red Cross Nurses Corps. The arcade wall contains the original brick and granite window trim, and the open doorway is in fact the original doorway from the home. See below for the interpretive elements PDF, and a memorandum about the home.
The Commons (as we have known) was built in 1974. Scores of cities in the US around that time were converting sections of their downtowns to pedestrian malls, but many have since abandoned the pedestrian mall concept in favor of thoroughfares with street parking. What’s made the Commons Rebuild so interesting is the fact that after all these years, we’re just now getting a glimpse of (approximately) what it looked like almost a hundred years ago.
Here’s a shot I took today, in front of what is now the Colonial Building, and a shot from 1901 at roughly the same spot.
Most of the buildings in this shot lie in the Ithaca Downtown Historic District (on the National Register of Historic Districts), so it’s been nice seeing all the facades that have kept with age, and without the trees in the way, it’s like walking back in time.
Demolition is moving along, and if you haven’t had a chance yet, I recommend swinging by and checking out the mural project organized by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. Each section of barricade will contain murals by local artists.
And here’s a rendering from Sasaki Associates (the re-design consultants) showing what the Commons will look like once completed (and the new trees have filled-in). I imagine it’s actually going to take some re-adjusting back once the project is complete, and the sight lines are partially blocked again, but for now, I’ll enjoy it.