Frances Johnson

New walking tour company exposes little-known history of Ithaca

Eric Gervais’s love and passion for the history of Ithaca, New York, prompted him to create his own tour company, Ithaca Tours.

Ithaca Tours, which Gervais created in early March, provides walking tours in and around the city of Ithaca. Each tour focuses on a different part of the history of Ithaca, including early Native American settlements and the founding of the town.

“I wanted to use a name that was really broad and included a lot of different kinds of tours that are available,” Gervais said. “In Ithaca, in terms of the things you can do throughout town, there are different areas of Ithaca that have history that’s different than others.”

Gervais, who grew up outside of Chicago, moved to Ithaca in the 1990s. He began compiling research and history about the Ithaca area about 10 years ago, he said. With experience in the book industry and a background in metadata and library services, Gervais has found enough information for his tour company, thanks to digital media.

“I can really help improve people’s access to knowledge about Ithaca by using digital tools in a new way and reaching out to people who wouldn’t find out about this Ithaca history because they would never go look it up,” Gervais said.

Currently, Gervais has created three walking tours that start from The Commons. The Ithaca North tour takes visitors to Cascadilla Gorge.

“Cascadilla Gorge was the primary settlement of early Ithaca,” Gervais said. “A lot of the earliest history is in that area.”

The Ithaca South tour of Six Mile Creek, off of Tioga Street, shows the history of Native American settlement in the Ithaca area. It was a key settlement because of the hemlock trees and tannery that were there. The bark of the hemlock trees was used to tan the leather produced, Gervais explained.

Ithaca West focuses on the west end of the city of Ithaca off of State Street, where the historic neighborhoods of the Rhine and the Silent City are located.

“[They] were both areas where lower-class people lived in those times,” Gervais said. “And lot of that was because of the wharfs, as they called them in the early days.” The wharf, Gervais explained, refers to the Cayuga Inlet.


For now, Gervais is offering these three tours but plans to expand his tours to cover more of Ithaca. He hopes to give walking tours of the various gorges in and around the Ithaca and walking tours around Cayuga Lake near the Farmers’ Market.

Along with the tours, Gervais has donated materials, such as maps of Ithaca, to the History Center in Tompkins County. He hopes his contributions to documenting the history of the Ithaca area, which helped him create his tours, will allow people to learn about the town they live in and share his love for Ithaca.

“It’s sort of my passion, but it’s also something I could put to work for,” Gervais said. “It’s to my benefit to use those as well and to help people learn more about the area.”



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This entry was posted on April 1, 2016 by .
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