ITHACA, N.Y.—Common Council unanimously approved a plan last week to partially fund a study into the viability of the Ithaca Gun Smokestack as local development firm Visum looks to build on the site.

Visum and the City of Ithaca are splitting the cost of the study, which will determine the smokestack’s existing conditions, any problems with its long-term stability and how much any necessary repairs would cost.

Common Council authorized the city to spend up to $18,000 on the study. Historic Planner Bryan McCracken told council that if local consultant firm Vertical Access completes the study before any winter weather interruptions, it will cost the city about $15,000. Visum will pay roughly the same amount, as the overall cost is projected to be slightly less than the $33,000 that was initially proposed.

Though the area has not been named a historic landmark by the City of Ithaca, the resolution calls the site “an undesignated historical resource.” There was some debate at the city committee level over whether or not an effort to preserve the smokestack was inappropriate, considering its connection to guns and environmental contamination at the site.

Counterarguments from some council members and the general public about the smokestack’s representation of the city’s manufacturing and local labor history eventually won out, though, as the vote last week was 10-0 favor of funding the study. The smokestack’s future fate could depend, in part, on the results of the assessment.

“The Ithaca Gun Company smokestack is the only remaining architectural artifact
from the factory complex of the Ithaca Gun Company, an internationally recognized and respected manufacturer of handcrafted firearms that operated along Fall Creek near Ithaca Falls for over 100 years,” the resolution states.

Visum’s involvement stems from its project “The Breeze,” a 77-unit market rate apartment building planned for the east portion of the Ithaca Gun site, which the city’s Planning Board approved earlier this year. The immediate area around Ithaca Gun’s historic location adjacent to Ithaca Falls has long been plagued by significant lead contamination in the soil, a result of Ithaca Gun’s manufacturing and gun testing operation. The part of the site where Visum intends to build is being remediated for contamination until it is ready for high-density housing.

According to materials submitted to council, Vertical Access will use drones to obtain images of the smokestack and then conduct a “hands-on” assessment of the exterior and interior of the structure. Vertical Access staffers will then prepare a report on their findings and submit it to the city for review.

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief of The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at