Ithaca's waterfalls were an early source of power for local industry. A gun-barrel factory at the base of Fall Creek tapped the Triphammer Falls in the 1820s. A few decades later, Jeremiah Beebe's plaster and flour mills relied on the force of water flowing through the gorge pictured here.
As a manager in Beebe's employ, a young Ezra Cornell engineered the blasting of a tunnel through the solid rock walls of Fall Creek Gorge. His 15-foot-high tunnel replaced a system of wooden sluices hung from the cliff, which were regularly destroyed by ice and floods. According to university historian Morris Bishop '14, when the two shafts of Cornell's 200-foot-long tunnel met, they were out of line by mere inches.