115 Ridgewood Road
Year Built: 1907
Architect: 1961 addition by Tallman and Tallman
Isabella (or Isabelle) Titus Swan had the eclectic Hillhurst with its modified mansard roof built in 1907. Swan was a granddaughter of prominent Ithaca lawyer, politician, and abolitionist Ben Johnson (1783-1848). She attended Miss Drake’s School in Ithaca and then boarding school at the Episcopalian St. Agnes School in Albany. Swan traveled in Europe extensively and declared herself a woman of leisure on a 1908 passport application.
In 1914, Swan began renting out rooms at Hillhurst, and the mansion soon became home to a succession of Cornell University fraternities and then a sorority. Beginning in 1915, sixteen male students from Cornell’s Hillhurst Club occupied the house. Omicron Alpha Tau fraternity brothers lived at the residence from 1919 to 1924. The fraternity lost membership during the Depression and was disbanded.
On May 3, 1925, a significant fire tore through the upper stories of the unoccupied Hillhurst. “The conflagration started in a room on the top floor,” reported the Cornell Daily Sun, “rose to the attic, and before it was discovered the attic roof was in flames.” The cause of the fire could not be determined.
Swan, who was then living in New York City, couldn’t be reached immediately. Likely because of the fire and the expensive repairs, Swan sold the property. In October 1925, Pi Kappa Phi purchased Hillhurst. The fraternity agreed to repaint the home and repair the roof and other fire damage.
In 1941, the foreclosed property was sold to sorority Sigma Delta Tau. Founded in 1917 by seven Jewish Cornell undergraduates, the sorority counts among its members Cornell graduates Dr. Joyce Brothers (1927-2013), the "founding mother of TV psychology," and Phyllis Snyder, national president of the National Council of Jewish Women from 2005 to 2008.
Additions over the decades, including a 1961 wing designed by Tallman and Tallman Architects, have significantly enlarged the footprint of the original structure.
- Ebenezer Mack Treman, The History of the Treman, Tremaine, Truman Family in America, Volume 1, Press of the Ithaca Democrat, 1901, p. 798.
- Manning's Ithaca Phone Directory, 1907, 1919, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925.
- National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: General Emergency Passport Applications, 1907-1923; Box #: 4344; Volume #: Volume 128: Sweden to Turkey.
- Official Publications of Cornell University, Volume V, Number B, Directory, Cornell University, Second Term, 1913-1914; Official Publications of Cornell University, Volume VII, Number A, Directory, Cornell University, First Term 1915-1916, October 15, 1915.
- Tompkins County Clerk's Office, Deed Book 165, Page 208; Deed Book 206, Page 535; Deed Book 206, Page 544; Deed Book 210, Page 45; Deed Book 262, Page 58.
- "Vacant House Damaged Badly in Sunday Fire," The Cornell Daily Sun, Volume XLV, Number 161, 4 May 1925, p. 2.
Patricia Longoria, Deputy Historian