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Industrial development and activity, toxin discoveries and responses


South Hill was settled and developed much later than the downtown "core" of Ithaca - Six Mile Creek formed a natural boundary to the South of the town. Much of the "flats" area West of South Hill (West of Cayuga Street, South of Green Street) was swamps, and the initial settlement was centered in areas between the Inlet and Aurora Street. (See the 1873 and 1882 "Birds-Eye" views of Ithaca in these maps from The History Center. The maps show just modest development along Prospect, Pleasant, and Columbia Streets on "lower" South Hill.)

In 1870 an iron bridge was built over Six Mile Creek at Aurora Street, which eased access between South Hill and downtown Ithaca. The Morse Chain Company was incorporated in 1898, and the early 20th Century saw considerable settlement and development of lower South Hill, including the establishment of a large factory site, West of Aurora Street and South of the railroad loop which extended down the hill to "Mechanics Street" (now Hillview Place) near Aurora Street.

Tioga Street was extended up South Hill from the intersection of Prospect Street and "Spencer Place" (now known as East Spencer Street) which started Southwest toward Cayuga Street. This section of Tioga Street is now known as "Turner Place" - a reference to Samuel B. Turner and his brother, Ebenezer T. Turner, who owned a large parcel of land West of Tioga Street, running from Spencer Place up the hill to the rail line. The K.P. Crandall map (dated May 1905) is the basis for most of the property lines dividing up the 38 lots they offered for sale. Note the "Ithaca Water Works" property, showing a city reservoir that was where the Morse "R & D Lab / Service Building" was later built.

With a school and grocery delivery, homes were built in neighborhoods which developed downhill from and east of the factory, including many of the lots owned by the Turner brothers. There were a few cigar makers, a dairy, and a coalyard (which became Southside Fuel Company, downhill from Coddington St. on Aurora St.).

Lower South Hill - 1905 - for a printable version, click here

While Ithaca Gun was the first large factory operation to be established in Ithaca - on Lake Street, near the Ithaca Falls, where waterpower was readily available, South Hill has hosted many industrial ventures as well. The first to be established was the Morse Chain Company, which incorporated in 1898 in Trumansburg, growing from a carriage-spring and bicycle-chain business into a developer of chain and power-transmission equipment. The firm moved into their South Hill site in 1906. There were many other product lines they worked with, including aircraft, typewriters, and adding machines. The Thomas-Morse Scout plane was part of the aircraft industry centered at what is now The Hangar Theater at Cass Park.

The Morse adding machine business was merged into a firm known as Allen-Wales - in 1943 it was bought by National Cash Register Company. A new plant was constructed further up South Hill in 1957-8, where the business continued until the demise of mechanical adding machines in the 1970's. NCR moved into electronic point-of-sale systems, and was taken over by Axiohm before the facility was closed around 2000. The owners of this factory site are applying for participation in the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program.

In May 2006, owners of the NCR plant site property at 950 Danby Road, now known as the South Hill Business Campus, brought a lawsuit against NCR Corporation for costs of site cleanup and damages, according to an article in the Central New York Business Journal, no longer available online..

(National Cash Register Ad - 1962
Source: Manning's Ithaca Directory Vol. LIX, 1962))


Morse Chain and the many affiliated industries located in the same site expanded through much of the 20th century, joining the Borg-Warner Corporation in 1929. Their product lines have evolved, including electronic controller components for power transmission systems, manufactured in the building formerly occupied by the adding machine operation.

In the early 1980s, the Automotive portions of the business were moved to a new facility on Warren Road near the airport. The Industrial products portion remained on South Hill. It was sold by Borg-Warner to Emerson in 1983, and is now the main site for the Emerson Power Transmission operation.

(Morse Ad - 1962
Source: Manning's Ithaca Directory Vol. LIX, 1962 )


Therm has developed a large facility on Hudson St. Extension, with a 130,000 square-foot facility and recognized specialties in machining turbine blades. Therm has also had many forays into other lines: typewriter components, television screens, engine components and glassware.

While Therm has managed to avoid some of the serious scrutiny placed on the Aurora Street sites, they have had to renew their State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits after spills which ended down the hill in Six Mile Creek.

(Therm Ad - 1990
Source: Ithaca City Directory, 1990 )


Continue to "Growth Through The 20th Century"           History - References

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