The Chapter House is coming down, but will rise again

October 6, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

The Chapter House, the popular Collegetown pub that was mortally wounded in a fire six months ago, is coming down this afternoon, but it will be rebuilt.

Crews tearing down the Chapter House on Tuesday. 14850 Photo.Crews tearing down the Chapter House on Tuesday. 14850 Photo.Crews on Tuesday afternoon were demolishing the historic Stewart Avenue building, after owners and city officials decided the structure was too badly damaged by April's fire -- and the subsequent exposure to the elements -- to be repaired.

Jess Uhrovcik, a cook at the nearby Carriage House Cafe, tells 14850 Today that she and her staff have been told the demolition has been rescheduled several times. "They notify us every time," she says, so employees can avoid breathing in debris from the demolition. Crews on the scene are using a hose to reduce the spread of dust.

Firefighters were called to the scene at about 4am on April 14th after residents were awoken by smoke and blaring alarms. IFD spokesperson Lt. Thomas T. Basher Jr. told us all of the residents of both buildings had gotten out safely by the time firefighters arrived.

The Chapter House dates back nearly a century as a Collegetown establishment. Cornell history specialist Corey Ryan Earle said on Twitter this morning that the business, the oldest bar in Collegetown, first opened as Jim's Place in the mid 1920s. 

The popular tavern became the Chapter House in the 1960s, and has had multiple owners and multiple incarnations since. Through the 1980s and most of the '90s, it was operated as a brewpub by owner James Clement, and served house beers, housemade ginger ale and root beer, and little else, until Clement sold the bar to John Schaeffer, the current owner. Schaeffer says the bar generally has at least 50 microbrews on tap at any given time, and several years ago added liquor so he could serve cocktails and mixed drinks.

According to Brian Crandall, writing for the Ithaca Voice, the building's owners plan to build a new structure that will be reminiscent of the original, with space for a new Chapter House on the ground floor and three floors of residences above that. The new pub is slated to open in August of 2016.

David Garlough, a former Chapter House bartender who set up a GoFundMe campaign to help gather funds to restore the Chapter House, said last week that he's passing the nearly $8,000 collected along to the bar's owners, "in the hopes that our donations will help to recreate some of charm and soul of the old Chap." The Cornell alum, who worked at the bar from 1998-2000, said this spring, "The Chapter House paid a good part of my tuition." 

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