New project finally beginning where Chapter House stood

It’s been nearly a year since the remains of the Chapter House building in Ithaca’s Collegetown neighborhood were torn down, and plans have been filed for a new building on that location, a block from the Cornell University campus.

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

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

“There is still no guarantee that the Chapter House will return,” 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.

But the design filed last month with the City of Ithaca’s Department of Planning, Building, and Economic Development is “pretty close to what was previously proposed,” with “minor changes” and the “same architect,” according to Mike Niechwiadowicz, director of code enforcement for the City.

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 earlier this year. The property has sat empty, with fencing around the old foundation, since last October.

Rubble within a foundation that's a century old, if not older. 14850 file photo.

Rubble within a foundation that’s a century old, if not older. 14850 file photo.

Firefighters were called to the scene at about 4am last April 14th 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 last year 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 has 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 at least 50 microbrews on tap at any given time, and several years ago added liquor so he could serve cocktails and mixed drinks.

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 project should break ground this month, and the target date for completion is July 2017.

Updated to correct the spelling of Jon Schaeffer’s name.

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