The Argos Inn at 408 East State Street is the stately white historic mansion that greets visitors to the city at the foot of East Hill. Known for many years as the Cowdry Mansion, it was actually built in 1831 for Ithaca Village President Jacob McCormick and was later the home of the Cowdry family. For most of the second half of the twentieth century it was owned by Roy Park and housed as many as 25 offices.
A Tompkins County native purchased the building in 2009 with the vision of turning it into a small hotel. The exterior renovation involved restoration of the existing facades, including the transformation of open porches on the east side into a public sun room on the first floor and guest room above.
Large slabs of local bluestone are used throughout the building and grounds: in the bathroom and shower floors, the 2500 square foot patio that doubles as an accessible entry, and the front steps. The front lawn was raised to create a circular platform for the inn to rest upon, and a bank of shrubs and trees was planted in the resulting slope to buffer the Inn from the busy roadway. A set of stone steps was designed and placed into the new slope to relate to the stone front steps to the inn. The landscape design employs familiar garden plants that were popular in the 19th century in a new and surprising way. Similarly, the interior restoration is a contemporary take on Victorian materials. The stylish Bar Argos and other public spaces feature original wide plank floors, fireplaces, and original plaster crown moldings.
This project won the prestigious Excellence Award from the Preservation League of New York State in 2017 and a Historic Ithaca award in 2013.
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