Cortland, New York (population 18,740) is the sole city in Cortland County. It was founded as a military tract, a reward for service made to enlistees of the Revolutionary War. The city is located on the Tioughnioga River, and its agricultural economy spurred the development of mills, foundries, and stores.
With the coming of the railroad, Cortland developed a strong industrial base, creating jobs for many immigrants, attracting particularly those of Italian descent. Cortland was incorporated as a village in 1853 and a city in 1900.
Like many other industrial towns, Cortland has suffered from the decline in manufacturing. The city’s project to revitalize its downtown is an important element of its economic recovery. Cortland is home to many mid-1800 to early 1900 vintage structures, both commercial and residential, in its historic district. Along with helping owners improve historic facades, the city is rehabilitating the former Beard Building, built in 1884 to house a furniture and undertaking business, into classroom and administrative space for the state university and rental sites for retail business.
Cortland offers self-guided walking and bicycling tours of the city’s historic downtown. One must-see stop is the 1890 House Museum and Center for Victorian Arts, a magnificent mansion that features restored period room settings, changing exhibitions, programs, and special events.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2006.