Since its incorporation in 1934, the Southside Community Center, Inc., continues to affirm, empower, and foster the development of self pride among the African-American citizens of greater Ithaca. Through forums and activities in education, recreation, political and social awareness, the Southside Community Center is a community resource center. We serve as a vehicle to develop an appreciation for the contributions and presence of those peoples of African descent in the greater Ithaca community and in the larger world community.
The present Southside Community Center is the legacy of the work and ideals of the Francis Harper Women’s Club, a group of Black women in the Ithaca community. In March of 1927, the Francis Harper Women’s Club organized the Serv-Us League to serve the residents of the Southside. Mrs. Vera Irvin was then president and they raised $220.00 for the Hope Chest as a nucleus fund for this organization. The organization was to be non-sectarian and non-partisan, for the “uplift” of every individual.
Through the efforts of Mrs. Irvin and Mrs. Gessie Cooper, who later became executive secretary and president of the League, the help of four business men was enlisted and the first advisory board was formed. Mr. J.W. Hook served as the first president until his death when he was succeeded by Mr. R.E. Tremen. For the first seven years of its existence, the Center met in a rented house at 221 South Plain Street, and in 1932 purchased the property at 305 South Plain Street, the current home of the Center. In 1936 the structure was razed, and in 1937 the current facility was erected by the WPA in cooperation with the Southside Corporation and the City of Ithaca. The building was dedicated in a ceremony attended by the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1938.