Mill at Buttermilk Falls

There is a beautiful swimming area at the base of Buttermilk Falls in the state park in Ithaca, NY. Once one of the most popular swimming areas in Ithaca, accessible by city bus, this idyllic spot has been open only on weekends during recent summers, due to budget cuts and lifeguard shortages. But in the 19th century, the falls were valued for another use.

Swimming area at the base of the waterfall at Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY

The swimming area at the base of Buttermilk Falls. Photo by Stilfehler

Water power! A mill once stood by the falls, using the height of water in the gorge to power its machinery.

A former mill at the base of Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, NY

In this 19th century photograph, you can see the remnants of a mill once powered by the falls. Image scanned by Bill Hecht.

I’ve seen other photographs of this mill, but I don’t recall exactly what it did, or where the water was conducted from. Upstream from the waterfall, there once was a dam that I understand impounded part of Ithaca’s water supply, at the time privately owned by Robert H. Treman. Perhaps this was also the mill pond.

If anyone has more information about this mill, please let me know with a comment below.