Day THREE Cultural Heritage Itinerary
Take a deeper dive into Ithaca and Tompkins County’s cultural heritage on Day Three of a visit to the county.
Ithaca City Cemetery, University Avenue, Ithaca, NY and Lake View Cemetery, 605 East Shore Drive, Ithaca, NY
Ithaca’s largest cemeteries offer scenic vistas and a glimpse into the city’s past. The Ithaca City Cemetery is Ithaca’s main municipal cemetery, a peaceful 16-acre landscaped oasis popular with walkers, runners, and bird watchers. The first recorded grave in the cemetery dates to 1790 or 1791, when Rachel Allen, then seventeen years old, fell ill and died as her family was traveling through the area. The “Old Burying Ground” established on a hillside well apart from the early village settlement around DeWitt Park contains gravestones of Revolutionary War veterans and other early Ithaca families. Climb the old carriage road past the burial vaults built by prominent Ithaca families in the hillside area across from the Old Burying Ground. Above these crypts, the cemetery changes to a more formally landscaped area known as Mount Repose and styled after the rural cemetery movement of the 1840s. The newer part of the cemetery, added in the 1860s to 1880s, reflects the lawn cemetery style of the Victorian area, with open areas and more naturalistic landscaping. Three group monuments—established by the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, the Grand Army of the Republic, and Ithaca firefighters—offer group plots that memorialize their members. Wander through the cemetery, taking in the quiet beauty and absorbing some of the family names that have contributed to Ithaca’s history. During the month of October, join a Historic Ithaca (historicithaca.org) guided Ithaca City Cemetery tour on select weekends. Lake View Cemetery was laid out on a hillside overlooking Cayuga Lake in the 1890s by Rochester landscape architect William Webster, who also designed the landscaping for Stewart Park and Renwick Heights in the same era. Such Ithaca notables as astronomer Carl Sagan, Civil War nurse Sophronia Bucklin, and pub owner Theodore Zinck are buried at Lake View.
F.R. Newman Arboretum, Cornell Botanic Gardens, Arboretum Road, Ithaca, NY
A mix of natural and landscaped areas, the Cornell Botanic Gardens contains the nation’s top-ranked college arboretum. Hike through the 100-acre F.R. Newman Arboretum, whose valleys and hills were shaped by nearby Fall Creek more than 10,000 years ago as the glaciers retreated. Originally a working farm and then pasture for Cornell’s herd of Black Angus cattle, the arboretum was transformed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The arboretum took on its present form beginning in 1981 after a generous donation from Cornell alum Floyd R. “Flood” Newman. Enjoy the Sculpture Gardens, where Cornell architecture students under the supervision of professor Jack Squier designed and built a quirky mix of concrete sculptures. Announce your presence by sounding the gong at the top of the Newman Overlook. Visit environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy’s Holocaust Memorial to honor those who perished during—and the resilience of those who survived—the Holocaust. Be sure to take the trail to the Floriculture War Memorial, which pays homage to the Cornell students majoring in floriculture studies who died in World War I and II. Nearby Flat Rock provides an ideal spot for wading in or just sunning along the banks of Fall Creek in the summer.
Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts, 5 McLallen Street, Trumansburg, NY
Known as the birthplace of the Moog synthesizer, the village of Trumansburg has earned the reputation as Tompkins County’s musical hothouse. For decades its Rongovian Embassy, now closed, hosted the hottest music in the county, and its annual GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance in July draws thousands of visitors. Take in a concert or show up for a dance party at the Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts. The 1851 building, originally the First Baptist Church of Trumansburg, is one of the finest examples of high Greek Revival architecture in Tompkins County. Dancers say it has the best wooden dance floor in the county. Stroll the nearby streets to enjoy Trumansburg’s historic residential architecture and dine in one of the many vibrant restaurants on Main Street.
Brookton’s Market, 491 Brooktondale Road, Brooktondale, NY
The tiny hamlet of Brooktondale boasts Brookton’s Market, a lively community gathering and dining spot with a long history. The hamlet itself grew up alongside the banks of Six Mile Creek beginning in the early 1800s. A plaster mill stood on the site of what later became a retail store in the 1880s. The Mulks family ran the market from the 1890s to the 1920s and operated the community post office from the building. It later became a chain IGA grocery store until the 1940s. Ithaca developer Avi Smith bought the store in 2006 and renovated the building, and his mother Deborah Halpern ran the store until its sale to Aaron Snow in 2013. Shop for local produce and other items in the store and order up a meal from the counter while enjoying the small-town atmosphere. Historic homes line Brooktondale Road and Valley Road, and brief histories of select homes can be accessed on the PocketSights (pocketsights.com) app.
Old Mill, Robert H. Treman State Park, 121-125 Upper Park Road, Newfield, NY
Tompkins County’s mill history is preserved at the Robert H. Treman State Park south of Ithaca. Visit the beautifully restored Old Mill in the Upper Park to get a sense of how an old-time gristmill operated. The 1847 mill, built by Jared Treman, anchored the now-defunct settlement of Enfield Falls. Signage and artifacts in the building help recreate life in the once-bustling hamlet. Trace the foundations of the hamlet’s buildings excavated by Cornell archaeologists. Admire the nearby Lucifer Falls and walk the path along Enfield Glen that has attracted tourists since before the Civil War.
Newfield Covered Bridge, 20 Bridge Street, Newfield, NY
Arguably nothing evokes the nostalgia and romance of rural America more than a covered bridge. The town of Newfield is home to Tompkins County’s only remaining covered bridge, built between 1851 and 1853. Head south from Ithaca to see the restored red bridge and admire its complex truss work. A few historic structures remain in the compact community center near the bridge, including an apartment building on Main Street that was originally a hotel where Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech from its balcony in 1910. Newfield’s Little Tree Orchards provides apple and veggie picking in season, and apple doughnuts year-round.