Building Bridges - Traverse Tompkins

Join The History Center in Tompkins County for Traverse Tompkins: Building Bridges in 2023.

Building Bridges - Traverse Tompkins

Cayuga, New York 13034, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage

Tour Information

Traverse Tompkins is an annual fundraiser supporting The History Center in Tompkins County. Run or ride across our community exploring history on the landscape. Learn more at

If “Ithaca is Gorges,” then one result is that Ithaca is also bridges. Tompkins County has an elaborate infrastructure of bridges built to cross our numerous creeks, streams, and steep-sided gorges to keep people and vehicles moving. Some of our early bridges no longer exist, like the romantic covered bridge at Halseyville. Built in 1833, it crossed Taughannock Creek on what is now Route 96 just southeast of Trumansburg and was replaced in 1928 with a simple concrete structure. It was one of three covered bridges that were originally built in Tompkins County, with the only remaining one now in Newfield.

Other historic bridges have been refurbished or rebuilt, such as the Thurston Avenue bridge connecting Cornell’s North Campus with Central Campus. Crossing Fall Creek near Triphammer Falls, the bridge was reconstructed in 2006-2007, with wider traffic lanes and sidewalks, as well as new bicycle lanes. The $10 million reconstruction project included the installation of 10 bronze interpretive panels along the rails of the bridge highlighting the history of the site with text and photographs. This is the third bridge crossing the creek at this point, the first having been built in 1897 by the Ithaca Street Railway Company, who ran a trolley system from downtown to Cornell. A second bridge was built in 1960.

This Traverse Tompkins Tour includes bridges of all kinds throughout the city of Ithaca and each of the county’s towns, including some for railroads, pedestrians, and cars. They are meant to be easily accessible by bike, on foot, and for a few, such as the Salmon Creek Train bridge and the Stewart Park pedestrian bridges, by kayak or canoe!


This tour was developed by staff of The History Center for the 2023 Traverse Tompkins Fundraiser.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

This unidentified bridge crosses a steep gorge between a dramatic waterfall and dam. If you can identify this site please email
Boatbuilding was a thriving business in Ithaca beginning with the formation of the Cayuga Steamboat Company in 1819. By the 1870s there were numerous boatyards, including one owned by the Jarvis family, shown here on Cascadilla Creek. The p... Read more
The Octopus was first opened to traffic in June, 1968. The construction of the Flood Control Channel to alleviate repeated flooding in the Cayuga Inlet took four bridges from the city to West Hill and reduced them down to one. Originally Cl... Read more
Two bridges over Six Mile Creek are visible in this historic photograph: A pedestrian bridge at Tioga Street, and in the distance, a bridge for vehicular traffic at Aurora Street. Both of these locations had bridges from as early as the 184... Read more
Seeing the innards of a bridge during construction or upgrading is always a fascinating sight. This image of the Columbia Street bridge must have been taken after a 1964 inspection that notes several structural deficiencies. Originally buil... Read more
D20.162  – This early 20th century image shows a pedestrian bridge at the east end of Goldwin Smith Walk on the Cornell campus. This scenic walkway was one of a few that traversed the early campus, and like the one around Beebe Lake at F... Read more
Fall Creek Gorge foot bridge - This bridge spans Fall Creek at an unidentified location. It is reminiscent of the pedestrian bridge over the Flat Rocks section of Fall Creek, but the terrain looks a bit different from what we see there toda... Read more
This steel through truss bridge was built by the Groton Iron Bridge Works in 1909. It underwent major repairs in 2014, when the original truss was taken off and stored on the lawn of the Cornell University Water Treatment Plant. It was modi... Read more
The beautiful stone arch bridge at the east end of Beebe Lake was built to honor Colonel Henry Woodward Sackett, a Cornell alumnus, donor, and trustee, who graduated in 1875. According to a tribute from Cornell, Sackett “was always intere... Read more
The dramatic suspension bridge over the Fall Creek gorge near the Johnson Museum is the second one built in that location. The first, constructed in 1913 by the Cornell Heights Land Company, was one of three bridges built to accommodate the... Read more
There are two suspension bridges over Fall Creek in Stewart Park that are part of the extensive walkways of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, Ithaca’s 8-mile multi-use waterfront “destination.” Originally conceived in 2001, the Waterfront ... Read more
The Lehigh Valley Railroad was initially used to transport Pennsylvania coal to the Erie Canal and points west. Starting in 1896, the road's premier train was the luxurious "Black Diamond Express." It ran from Jersey City to Buffalo and Nia... Read more
D20.193 – This plate girder was built over Taughannock Creek near Taughannock Falls to accommodate the Lehigh Valley Railroad, whose trains were a staple of transportation in Tompkins County from the post-Civil War period to the late 1950... Read more
Built in 1833, the Halseyville Covered Bridge crossed Taughannock Creek on what is now Route 96 just southeast of Trumansburg and was replaced in 1928 with a simple concrete structure. It was one of three covered bridges that were original... Read more
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a highly successful New Deal program that employed many thousands of young people during the height of the Great Depression. Much of the work they did was outdoors in infrastructure projects throughout th... Read more
This is the only remaining covered bridge in Tompkins County, one of approximately 25 in the state of New York, and the oldest covered bridge still open daily for vehicles. It was built by Samuel Hamm & Sons, David Dassance, and Patchen... Read more
Buttermilk Creek snakes its way from Jennings Pond in Danby north through Buttermilk Falls State Park and into Cayuga Inlet, and ultimately into Cayuga Lake. Jennings Pond Park offers hiking trails as well as lake activities such as swimmin... Read more
Six Mile Creek is one of the county’s major waterways and serves as the source for drinking water in the city of Ithaca. Residents have been erecting the means to cross it in several places for many years. In the early 19th century in the... Read more
The rails-to-trails movement is a national phenomenon that began in the 1960s, as advocates worked to convert unused rail lines into pedestrian-friendly paths. A Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was founded in 1986, and Tompkins County has its o... Read more
D20.168 – This bridge over Owasco Inlet in Peruville, in the town of Groton is a metal truss bridge that may have been built by the Groton Iron Bridge Company. If you know of this bridge email
Brothers Charles and Lyman Perrigo started the Groton Iron Works in 1852, while Daniel Spencer and Frederick Avery began the Groton Separator Works in 1847 to manufacture agricultural implements. By 1877, they had joined to form Perrigo and... Read more
The last train line to be built in Tompkins County, the Ithaca-Auburn Short Line was chartered in 1900 and passenger service began in 1908. Running up the east side of Cayuga Lake, it connected to the Ithaca Trolley system at Renwick Juncti... Read more
More than a mile long and built entirely from wood, the Cayuga Bridge crossed Cayuga Lake from Cayuga on the eastern shore to Bridgeport on the west. First opened in 1800, this engineering marvel was one of the longest bridges in the US at ... Read more


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