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County History

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125 East Court Street
Ithaca, NY  14850
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County History

Tompkins County History


By the 2000 federal census, the population of Tompkins County was 96,501. The ethnic composition of the county had also changed. There had been a major influx of Irish immigrants in the 1830s and ‘40s. Late in the nineteenth-century, Italians and some identified as Hungarians began to arrive. Early in the twentieth century newcomers included Italians, Hungarians, Greeks, and Finns. In 1900 there were two Chinese listed in the Federal Census. By 2000 the County housed a diversified Asian community along with Hispanics, Russians, and a small but significant contingent of Tibetans who founded a monastery, first on North Aurora Street and in 2008 along the Danby Road (route 96 south). The student population at Cornell is nearly twenty thousand.
The major business of the county is education, with Cornell, Ithaca College, the Tompkins Cortland Community College, and six public school systems plus several private schools and the Community School of Music and Art (CSMA). Agriculture continues to be important; there is an active Farmer’s Market featuring food grown in the area. Tompkins County also attracts tourists to its Discovery Trail of important museums: the Museum of the Earth, the Sciencenter, the Johnson Art Museum, the History Center. More than sixty cultural organizations, including historical societies, drama companies, musical groups of all kinds, dance companies and an orchestra and opera society flourish. There is a stunning cycle of events each year that include the Ithaca Festival, which occurs the first weekend of June, the Grassroots Festival each summer, Light in Winter each January, and an Art Trail open all year long with featured weekend events in the spring and fall.