The Southside's African-American Heritage Walking Tour (Historic Brochure Edition 2003)

The Southside neighborhood has an African-American heritage that dates back nearly 200 years.

The Southside's African-American Heritage Walking Tour (Historic Brochure Edition 2003)

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage

Tour Information

**This tour is from the 2003 printed "The Southside's African-American Heritage Walking Tour" brochure prepared by the Cornell-Ithaca Partnership with research by Leslyn McBean & Ingrid Bauer; modified for PocketSights by The History Center in Tompkins County in 2022. Text is unchanged from the original printing.**

The Southside neighborhood has an African-American heritage that dates back nearly 200 years. From the founding of the St. James A.M.E. Zion Church in 1833, to the Underground Railroad, to the construction of the Southside Community Center in 1938, the Southside was "The place to be."


This walking tour provides an introduction to the Southside's history for native Ithacans and visitors alike. Some sites have been well documented, while relatively little is known about others; some have been torn down or replaced, while others have been restored. All of them tell stories of a past that neighborhood residents from diverse backgrounds are rediscovering.


Total distance travelled: 1.69 miles

Elevation: Mostly flat

All sidewalks along route are paved. Certain streets may have uneven sidewalks.

Recommended for walking, cycling, and assisted movement support devices.


Released in May 2003 by the Cornell-Ithaca Partnership funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Cornell University, and City of Ithaca community agencies and organizations.

2003 Researcher: Ingrid Bauer

2003 Research & Edit: Leslyn McBean

2003 Graphic Design & Layout: Tony Zuniga

Photographs courtesy of The History Center in Tompkins County

Tour Map

Loading Tour


What You'll See on the Tour

The St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was chartered in 1833 by a group of 18 African-Americans who withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church in protest. Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass are known to have visited St. ... Read more
Born a slave in 1820, Thomas Jackson escaped from Virginia in 1842, and finally reached Ithaca in 1850. Soon thereafter, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed and he moved to Toronto for a brief time. Upon returning to Ithaca, Jackson worked as... Read more
Zachariah Tyler served the 26th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War. After the war he worked as a whitewasher and was pastor at the Wesleyan Methodist (Colored) Church, which was later renamed Calvary Baptist Church.    **This tour... Read more
From the 1920s through the Depression, members of the Frances Harper Women's Club ran the South Side House, which was destroyed in the flood of 1935. Community members, local business leaders, and the Federal Work Progress Administration (W... Read more
Levi Spaulding was Ithaca's first African-American policeman. He served from 1919 until 1930, when he died in the line of duty after apprehending a murder suspect. Levi also operated a barbershop and Ora had a hair salon at the Cayuga House... Read more
The Cooke family came to Ithaca from Virginia in the 1890s. The home has passed from mother to daughter ever since. The house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. African-American men who helped build the Ithaca to Owego railroad in the ... Read more
First located at 119 Tioga St., the Black Elks Club relocated to 536 West Green St. at the corner of South Corn St. in the 1950s.    **This tour is from the 2003 printed "The Southside's African-American Heritage Walking Tour" brochure pr... Read more
The "Leading Colored Hotel in the City" was first owned by Thomas Russell, and later by Jim Miller. It was also home to Harry B. Parker's Equal Rights Barber Shop and Ora Spaulding's hair salon in the 1920s.  UPDATE: The Cayuga House was d... Read more
Mr. and Mrs. Galvin came to Ithaca in the 1940s. They were both doctors. He was a general practitioner. She was one of the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. at Cornell in 1943 in English.    **This tour is from the 2003 printed... Read more
The Macera family purchased this home in the 1930's at the height of the Great Depression. The original was noted abolitionist and Quaker, Benjamin Halsey, who never turned away a runaway slave. As a result, today the home is said to provid... Read more
This site was home to a long line of Underground Railroad agents, starting with Titus Brum, who lived here in 1824. George A. Johnson, who married Brum's daughter, was a baber, a community leader, and was said to have helped 114 slaves esca... Read more
Nine identical houses, known by neighborhood residents as the "Ten Commandments," housed Irish, Italian, and Black immigrants. These small houses contained no more than a few rooms and an attic. They were town down in the early 1990s.  IMA... Read more
Aunt Elsie Brooks, born a slave in Maryland, came to Dryden in 1812. After New York abolished slavery in 1827, she lived with her husband at 24 Wheat Street and worked as an herbalist and washerwoman.  When she died in 1875, more than 80... Read more


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to