Created By: Ithaca Heritage
**This tour is from the 1986 printed "A Literary Walking Tour of Ithaca" brochure written by Deborah Schoch", modified for PocketSights by The History Center in Tompkins County in 2022. Text is unchanged from the original printing.**
For students of 20th century literature, a treasure trove of trivia awaits in Ithaca, N.Y.
This secluded college town has been home to some of the major figures in American writing over the past century. Many of them wrote about the town, some disguising it with names like "Athene" or "New Wye." Yet Ithaca remains undiscovered and unspoiled by the culture-seekers who know swarm through Cambridge and Greenwich Village and wear down the floors of Westminster Abbey.
No cultural markers scar the landscapes of Collegetown and Cayuga Heights. No tourism booths have sprung up to hawk postcards and bumper stickers. Remarkably, not a single home displays the sign "Nabokov Slept Here."
A one-day walking tour is the ideal way to spot the many highlights of Ithaca and the surrounding countryside. Some may choose to try this tour by bicycle or automobile; they are urged to pay attention to the city's many "one-way" traffic signs.
A LITERARY WALKING TOUR OF ITHACA is based on research of Ithaca literature and secondary sources. It is not intended as a scholarly excercise. Nor can we guarantee that we have not overlooked a writer, a literary hotspot, or even another Nabokov residence. The author welcomes any and all suggestions, additions and revisions.
A map on the inside of the book cover provides an overview of the walk and the location of the sights. And, to keep you on the path, maps have been reproduced on each page.
Tompkins County's literary landmarks are not limited to the City of Ithaca and Cornell University.
For starters, cultural thrill seekers can take the "Vladimir Nabokov trail" in Cayuga Heights.
We might begin at the Corners Community Center, a shopping area closely resembling "Community Center" in Nabokov's Pale Fire.
We pass by 880 Highland Road, where Nabokov lived in 1957-58. Nearby is Hampton Road, where he lived in 1952-53; 623 Highland Road, his home in 1951-52; 425 Hanshaw Road, where he lived in 1956-57; and 404 Highland Road where he lived in 1958-59, shortly before leaving Ithaca.
A short drive away is 614 Wyckoff Road, Pearl Buck's home in 1932-33. She returned to Ithaca with her first husband who was studying at Cornell. The Good Earth had won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize, and local newspapers made much of her Ithaca stay. She was working on a new novel, tenatively titled The Patriots, according to a 1932 Ithaca Journal article that described her Cayuga Heights home. "Here and there an unobtrusive Oriental decoration hinted of far-off China," the article stated. "But the mistress of the house is primarily the charming wife of an American professor."
A few blocks away is Oak Hill Road, scene of a real-life drama that would be transformed into the climax of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. In May 1958, Cornell students became infuriated by a proposed administration ban on unchaperoned apartment parties. Led by Richard Farina and Kirkpatrick Sale, they staged a demonstration on campus. An estimated 1,000 students marched north to the Cornell president's home on Oak Hill Road, where effigies were burned and eggs thrown. Farina, Sale and two others were suspended.
East of the Cornell campus is a modest home at 22 Forest Home Drive where Buck lived quietly in 1924-25. She was doing graduate work in English at Cornell. Yet a current Forest Home resident can remember typing her manuscripts for East Wind: West Wind.
Other points of literary interest:
The Village of Dryad -or Dryden- where a rural Dairy Queen is the scene of important action in Been Down So Long
Ithaca College, where Serling once taught writing workshops
307 Willow Ave., on Ithaca's Northside. This is the home of the singing infant in Baby, according to author Robert Lieberman.
Hector Street on West Hill, once home to W.D. Snodgrass. In The Campus on the Hill, he writes of his house "on the other hill, among meadows, with the orchard fences down and falling; deer come almost to the door."
Thanks are extended to the Board of Planning and Development, City of Ithaca, for use of its city map. In addition, we wish to thank Jane Marcham, Rita Hall, Jim Powers, Barb Gingras and Bruce Tilton.
ACCESIBILITY NOTES ABOUT THE TOUR:
Total distance traveled: 5.90 miles
Elevation gain rating: very hard (multiple hills)