Terrace Place has its rocky roots in Ithaca’s McClune Terrace quarry

By Carol Kammen

Terrace Place is the small lane that leads across the slope on East Hill heading toward the lake.  It spans the land between East Buffalo Street and Linn Street, spilling in at the junction of Court Street and University Avenue. Terrace Place is easily overlooked but has an interesting history.

Original Lane
A sign at East Buffalo Street and Terrace Place honors the earliest known United States settlers to the Ithaca area. The marker is also near where Simeon DeWitt, New York’s surveyor general, most probably camped when making his survey of the land that would become Ithaca.

When conducting the survey of the Military Tract, that land that had been the home lands of the Cayuga Nation and was not to be given to veterans of the Revolutionary War in payment for their service, Simeon DeWitt, New York’s surveyor general camped somewhat above what is now Terrace Place, most probably on DeWitt Place, where he looked down at the flats below. Horace Mack, writing in the history of the county published in 1879 remarked that DeWitt “selected a beautiful and elevated spot on the east hill for a house on which there is a small grove of white pines from which you have a fine view of the lake and country.” Below is a precipice of 100 feet and from DeWitt’s perch, he could see over the rocky cliff, to the lake beyond. This is where DeWitt, who died in 1834, was first buried: he was later reburied in Albany among members of his extended family.

When conducting the survey of the Military Tract, that land that had been the home lands of the Cayuga Nation and was not to be given to veterans of the Revolutionary War in payment for their service, Simeon DeWitt, New York’s surveyor general camped somewhat above what is now Terrace Place, most probably on DeWitt Place, where he looked down at the flats below. Horace Mack, writing in the history of the county published in 1879 remarked that DeWitt “selected a beautiful and elevated spot on the east hill for a house on which there is a small grove of white pines from which you have a fine view of the lake and country.” Below is a precipice of 100 feet and from DeWitt’s perch, he could see over the rocky cliff, to the lake beyond. This is where DeWitt, who died in 1834, was first buried: he was later reburied in Albany among members of his extended family.

DeWitt would have known of the trail that led to the lake as it skirts the high ground and cliffs overlooking Cascadilla Creek below him his campground, and it was part of the Martinus U. Zielie tract of 1,400 acres that lay at the bottom of East Hill.  [See the essay about Zielie by Peter Marks at http://toursixmilecreek.org/Zielie.php].

That tract of land was conveyed from Zielie to Abraham Bloodgood and then the title passed to Bloodgood’s brother-in-law and then to Simeon DeWitt. The evidence for these transfers, and the reason Zielie received the 1,400-acre tract seem to be lost. What is interesting is that the 1,400 acres are those that DeWitt saw in the late 1780s when he headed the survey of this portion of Central New York and was land he thought most suitable for a small city. That he ended up with that land is `Curiouser and curiouser!’ as Alice said when she looked down the rabbit hole.

According to the 1879 history of Tompkins County, Simeon DeWitt “came into possession of nearly all the domain which is now embraced within the bounds of the village corporation and other lands outside it.”

In 1807 DeWitt drew a map of his property, showing his plans to create a village. His drawing shows Beull Street and it did not, at that point extend up the hill. But as the population of the village of Ithaca grew, Buell became Buffalo Street, which transected the old pathway across the hill.

Terrace Place MapMcClune Terrace was renamed Terrace Place in the early 20th century.

The useful lane became the site of Gideon McClune’s quarry in 1859 and was known as McClune’s Terrace as he chipped away the stone for sale from his office at 53 West Seneca Street. He advertised “flagging, platforms, curbing, door and window sills and caps, horse blocks, hitching posts, &c., &c.”

 

GC McClune Advert
Gideon McClune began his quarry at McClune Terrance in 1849. According to his June 9, 1909 obituary, McClune operated the businesses for 48 year and the quarry supplied many of Ithaca’s original stone sidewalks.

By 1898 there were seven residences on McClune Terrace and the Ithaca Directory continued to carry an ad for McClune’s flagging and cut stone, noting that he employed “competent and Experienced Workmen,” and he kept in stock “thoroughly seasoned Stone.”  [page 211]

In 1908 Gideon McClune was still in business but he died the next year. In 1915, the Ithaca Directory only listed two residents on McClune Terrace, Henry Van Orman and Albert Alexander and identified their location as from 319 East Mill heading south which is the area where the original lane spills out into Mill, now Court Street, and blends into University Avenue.

The remainder of the 11 residents of the street, located from 317 East Buffalo north to Linn Street, were identified as living on Terrace Place and that is how the small street is identified today.

Full obituary: Obit Gideon McClune

OBIT McClune Screen Shot

 

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Carol Kammen is the Tompkins County historian and the author of several books on local history.

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