Today we’re back in Ithaca, New York to look at Businessman’s Lunch Falls. Way back on week three of this Waterfall Wednesday series (we’re now on week 42) I shared about Van Natta Falls which is the waterfall at the top created by a man-made dam. There are three natural waterfalls below the dam, which was the focus of today’s featured painting. The combination of all four is called Businessman’s Lunch Falls or Wells Falls.
Businessman’s Lunch Falls got its name because of its proximity to downtown Ithaca. It is only a short quarter mile walk to the bottom flat area and many people used to (and still do) visit on their lunch breaks. The waterfall is along Six Mile Creek near the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve off of Giles Street.
Six Mile Creek is 20 miles long starting up in the Town of Dryden and flowing into Cayuga Lake. The creek used to be called Teegastoweas by the Cayuga Native American tribe. Settlers later changed the name to Six Mile Creek, which refers to the distance between the crossing near Brooktondale to the trail junction at Cascadilla crossing in Ithaca.
The three natural waterfalls of Businessman’s Lunch Falls include a 6 foot cascade, a 15 foot nearly vertical drop, and a 17 foot cascade. From the upper path you can walk up along the waterfalls (as long as the water is low enough). It was really neat to walk up next to the first six foot cascade. There was something about that one that I found especially pretty.
My favorite part of Businessman’s Lunch Falls is the old ruins alongside the creek. This area has a rich history of industry starting back in the late 1800’s with a gristmill run by John E. Van Natta. The business, named Sylvan Park Mills, advertised the sale of flour, feed, meal, grain, seeds, and a ‘New Process Buckwheat Flour’.
The property was later sold to the Ithaca Light and Water Co in 1892 who converted the land to a pumping station for the city’s water supply. This area still supplies water to the city today, which is one reason why there’s no swimming allowed at this location.
I was curious why the waterfall is also referred to as Wells Falls so I researched that a bit also. Winfield Wells owned the sawmill known as Wells’ Mill not far from this location. There was a larger lumber camp and a smaller one nearby that were run by the Wells Family in the early 1900’s.
The Elizabeth Mulholland Wildflower Preserve can be found on the other side of the bridge from Businessman’s Lunch Falls and is probably the best place to park while visiting.
In the early 1900’s the Six Mile Creek watershed was owned by Robert H. Treman who gifted it to the City of Ithaca noting that it must be used as a park and maintained for public use. The area then became known as Six Mile Glen Park.
In 1970 the area surrounding the Water Filtration Plant became a wildflower preserve. The wildflower preserve was renamed to the Elizabeth Mulholland Wildflower Preserve in 1986 to honor the continued service that Elizabeth Mulholland showed to this natural area and as part of the Six Mile Creek Overseer Committee.
Painting Businessman's Lunch Falls
Businessman’s Lunch Falls was both a challenge and a favorite to paint. I was hesitant to paint the whole scene for my 50 New York Waterfalls project because in a lot of ways, a 6 inch by 6 inch square didn’t feel like it could give justice to all the interesting features of the scene. In the end I decided to go for it. I have many favorite parts of this painting. I’m so intrigued by the roots that are showing on all the trees at the bottom area of the waterfall. I also had a lot of fun painting the old building that used to house the powerplant.
This is definitely a scene that I see myself visiting in the future. In fact, I realized while I was going through photos to put in today’s post that the drawing that I just started is from my visit to this creek. (You can follow along with my progress on the drawing over on Instagram or Facebook.)
Have you visited Businessman’s Lunch Falls or the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve?
Resources & Further Learning
- https://sixmilecreek.org/?page_id=259 history