In May 2011 Tompkins County engaged HOLT Architects to produce a Business Case Analysis for a Center of Government located within five existing county owned properties around DeWitt Park in downtown Ithaca.

Part of this study involved relocating the Tompkins County Legislature from the Main Courthouse to the vacated Old Courthouse. This sustainable approach repurposed the original grand historic NYS Courtroom as the appropriate permanent home for the Tompkins County Legislature.


The new location allowed the Legislature to redefine its outdated image for public proceedings using a horseshoe design that allows the 16 legislatures to face each other directly, while including the community in adjacent gallery seating for 40. The audiovisual technology includes two large projection screens on either side of the legislature desks, allowing for full visibility to the legislators, the chair person, deputy, clerk, and public. State of the art flexible lighting for live presentations and televised meetings was seamlessly integrated into the historic wood ceiling.


The renovated Chambers include four private offices for support staff. Two of these offices are located at the former jury bench location. Interior windows and skylites into the offices allow for borrowed light to be shared by all.


Built in 1854, the Old Courthouse is the oldest Gothic Revival Courthouse in New York State, and it was important that HOLT incorporated the historic character of the structure into the design. New interior wood trim and casework simulate the original, and the walnut veneer of the legislator desks pays homage to the judge's original wood desk, as well as coordinates with the wood paneled ceiling and large trusses.


The new Tompkins County Legislature Chambers will allow for the Legislators, staff and public to collaborate in a space that not only celebrates the history of Tompkins County, but supports and carries Tompkins County through the present and into the future.


For more information about this project contact Graham L. Gillespie, AIA:

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