Work finally beginning on former Chapter House site in Collegetown

Over two years after the fire that destroyed the popular Chapter House building, as well as an apartment house next door, work has begun to clear the site and rebuild.

Contractors are clearing the site of the former Chapter House. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

“There has been no commitment from the owner of the Chapter House,” says Jerry Dietz of CSP Management, who managed the property for years before the April 2015 fire that destroyed the bar and apartments above, and a three-story apartment building next door. The building design allows for a ground-floor business, if the Chapter House owner decides to “return to the newly built space.”

According to Brian Crandall, writing for the Ithaca Voice, the building’s owners had planned to build a new structure that would be reminiscent of the original, with space for a new Chapter House on the ground floor and three floors of residences above that, originally slated for completion in August 2016. Later variations included a three-story building, which matched the previous structure, but plans were scrapped and the property was abruptly sold early last year. The property has sat empty, with fencing around the old foundation, since the final demolition of the old building in October 2015.

Jerry Dietz tells us the new property owner is the same owner as 406 Stewart Avenue, which burned down along with the Chapter House, and 408 Stewart Avenue, which suffered some heat damage, as well as the nearby 116 Osmun Place.

Dietz says the new owner has contracted with Hayner Hoyt to build a new building on the site, based on the designs approved “quite a while back” by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City of Ithaca Building Department. Hayner Hoyt will also be rebuilding the next-door apartment house that was damaged beyond repair in the same fire, and was torn down very quickly.

Crews have been clearing and leveling the site, and will be installing vertical supports and retaining walls around the edges of the foundation before construction proper begins.

Work was to begin last September, with an estimated completion date of July 2017, but the owners were unable to find “favorable pricing” from contractors last year.

A fire in April 2015 destroyed the Chapter House and surrounding apartments. 14850 file photo.

Firefighters were called to the scene at about 4am on April 14th, 2015 after residents were awoken by smoke and blaring alarms. IFD spokesperson Lt. Thomas T. Basher Jr. told us all of the residents of both buildings had gotten out safely by the time firefighters arrived.

The Chapter House dates back nearly a century as a Collegetown establishment. Cornell history specialist Corey Ryan Earle said on Twitter at the time of the fire that the business, the oldest bar in Collegetown, first opened as Jim’s Place in the mid 1920s.

The popular tavern became the Chapter House in the 1960s, and had multiple owners and multiple incarnations since. Through the 1980s and most of the ’90s, it was operated as a brewpub by owner James Clement, and served house beers, housemade ginger ale and root beer, and little else, until Clement sold the bar to Jon Schaeffer, the current owner. Schaeffer says the bar generally has had at least 50 microbrews on tap at any given time, and several years ago added liquor so he could serve cocktails and mixed drinks.

The Chapter House was one of several iconic Collegetown bars to close in quick succession, some several decades old, beginning with the Royal Palm Tavern. Pixel Lounge closed to make way for a new apartment building, Rulloff’s closed but reopened, Stella’s closed suddenly, and Dunbar’s closed but has been replaced by a new bar, the Hideaway.

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