Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Route 1

Route 1 - (The Back Way Home) - 2.28

Left turn from Wegmans lot rear entrance to yellow loop at the bottom of Hector

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

900 Stewart

To kick off this blog about the mysteries of Ithaca without having to do much work on my own - important right now because I'm short on time - here is a little information about 900 Stewart Avenue. If you've ever wandered by this strange property, you can see the allure for mystery lovers: tall fences, security cameras, stone mausoleum-like building with ancient Egyptian style architecture. You might imagine it's a fortified compound kept by the X-Men, an Illuminati lodge, or perhaps a vampire nest. But at least according to the official record, it was originally built for the Sphinx Head Order - a secret society at Cornell - before it was sold to a series of private owners, the last of which being the late great astronomer, Carl Sagan.

From Cornell University's Ask Uncle Ezra page:

Dear Uncle Ezra,
I have two conflicting bits of information about 900 Stewart Ave. One indicates this is the residence of the family of the late Carl Sagan. The other indicates this was, up until 2001, the Sphinx Head tomb and was sold in that year to a private individual when the secret society decided to become less enigmatic. As Carl Sagan passed in 1996, I doubt his family would have bought the tomb five years later. Uncle Ezra, can you please piece this mystery together once and for all?

Dear Mystery Lover,
In order to answer your question I have to go back in time a little bit. The Sphinx Head Order was one of Cornell’s secret societies that began shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In 1926 the men who were members of the Order decided to build an Egyptian-style tomb on the hillside where the house at 900 Stewart Ave now resides (there were no other structures there at the time). The members referred to their tomb as a “secret windowless lodge” and used it as a place to hold meetings and socialize. The Sphinx Head brothers seem to have gotten the idea for this particular type of structure from their secret society counterparts at Yale.

The members used the tomb until 1969 when they decided to sell the property (the land and its structure) to the homeowner directly adjacent to them along this strip of Stewart Ave. They were no longer using the building much and apparently felt that the upkeep of the structure was more work than it was worth. The neighbor who bought the property was Professor Robert Wilson. He and his wife left the tomb intact but then later sold the land to Professor Steven Mensch in 1979. Professor Mensch was a lecturer in Human Ecology in the Department of Design, and he reportedly was very interested in building a home around the theme and style of the tomb, which he did do. Thus, the tomb and its adjacent land was incorporated into the house design of Professor Mensch, who continued at times to host the members of the Sphinx Head Order in his home.

Professor Mensch later sold the house and property to Professor Carl Sagan and his wife, who are still on record as the rightful owners. Given Professor Sagan is now deceased, the house belongs to his estate and heirs.

Uncle Ezra