Tompkins County: Caroline
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CAROLINE
With a name like Caroline, you might think that the town was named after some lovely lady, but you'd be wrong. The as yet unnamed town was organized by a group of local residents who had gotten together at Bush Tavern in the hamlet of Boiceville. At that meeting, it was proposed that the town be named by opening a spelling book to a random page with the first female name found there becoming the name of the town. And so it was that, at a later meeting, a spelling book was produced, flipped open, and the name Caroline found and adopted.
Settlers had been living in the area since the late 1790s, but Caroline didn't become an official town in Tompkins County until 1822.
People were attracted to the town for many reason. One reason was Six Mile Creek, a sometimes tempestuous creek flowing through the Caroline valley. The creek was dammed in many places and mills of all kinds built. At one time, the creek supported 23 mills, including grist, fulling and woolen, flour, and saw mills. By 1929 the town was thriving with four railroad shipping stations and sixteen elementary schools. Today the railroad is gone and the town has only one elementary school. Not to worry, the town has retained much of its quaint-town feeling.
Another reason why people were attracted to Caroline in the early days was because the Catskill Turnpike--now state routes 206 and 79--ran though the town. Possibly an old Indian trail that ran from the back of the Catskill Mountains across much of the region, the Catskill Turnpike was a post road bringing mail and passengers via stagecoach to towns along the way like Whitney Point, Ithaca, and Watkins Glen.
At one time the Town of Caroline had nearly 40 named communities with churches, schools, a blacksmith's shop, a tavern, and a general store. Mott's Corners, for example, had a plaster mill and a saw mill, as well as a furniture factory that specialized in fine tables.
White Church was named for a Baptist church on the road, now White Church Road. A railroad came up the White Church Valley from Owego in Tioga County through Caroline to Ithaca. The train carried a variety of passengers, including fugitive slaves and children who took the train to their school in Candor, the next town to the south.
Most of these communities exist today in name only, having reverted to open land or residential clusters. One community that still exists today is Brooktondale. Here you'll find lovely old homes, the Masonic Lodge, the Caroline Community Center, and Brookton's Market, a good place to stop for something to drink after taking a look at the nearby falls on Six Mile Creek.
Brooktondale was originally called Brookton. But sloppy handwriting created confusion with Brooklyn, one of boroughs of New York City, causing mail to go astray. So, in 1926, the hamlet was renamed Brooktondale.
Speedsville, on Old 76 Road, is another hamlet in Caroline that is worth a visit. Once a thriving community with a post office, grist mill, feed store, two general stores, a woodworking shop, a barrel and crate factory, potters, milliners and dressmakers, a creamery that produced 500 pounds of butter per day, a cheese factory, a blacksmith's shop, a bowling alley, and a cider mill, the hamlet today has a small store, a community center, St. John's Episcopal Church (on the National Register of Historic Places), several historic homes, and a local green or commons with a gazebo and picnic tables.
On State Route 79 (locally known as Slaterville Road) is the hamlet of Slaterville Springs. Originally known as just Slaterville, it was named in honor of the Town's first teacher Levi Slater. Here you'll find the town hall (originally the Slaterville school and on the National Register of Historic Places), the town's only gas station, the St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and a number of houses with interesting architecture.
Slaterville Springs is well known for its artesian wells. One is located in front of the town hall. The water from these wells had, at one time, a rather mythical quality. In 1871, Dr. William Gallagher determined that the waters of the "magnetic springs" had curative properties. Two hotels--Fountain House and Magnetic Springs Hotel--operated in Slaterville during this time to accommodate tourists who wanted to take the waters. In 1890, the hamlet was renamed Slaterville Springs. Three years later, in 1893, the water from Slaterville Springs won an award at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago for its clarity and excellence. During this "spa era," which began to decline in the 1920s, Slaterville Springs water sold for $2.50 per gallon. Today, the water from these wells is clean, clear, and good to drink. So bring a jug and help yourself to the water at the town hall as the spout runs all year long, even in the winter, and it's free for the taking. You can't beat that!
In 1871, Mrs. Middaugh, one of Slaterville's residents, discovered that the water from her artesian well would turn glass a lovely amber color, yet the neighbor's nearby well would not. Mrs. Middaugh began ambering glass in a serious way, selling it to clientele at the health spas and to people who came to her house to see how the glass was colored. Today, glass is still being ambered in Slaterville Springs by Kim Case and her daughter Holly, using water from their artesian well. Holly says the process takes four to six weeks per piece. You can see and buy this interesting glass at their gift shop listed at the bottom of this page. (Read a story about and see a picture of this glass.)
Another hamlet, Caroline Center, located at and around the intersection of Buffalo and Old 76 roads, no longer has any stores or a post office, but it does offer an interesting collection of residences, showing how artistic, independent, and eclectic Caroline residents can be.
Read an interesting history of the Town of Caroline (182 pages).
The majority of the Town of Caroline is open space with more than 30 percent of the town's landmass preserved as state land, land owned by non-profit organizations that is open to the public, and private land under conservation easement. As you drive around Caroline, you will see that a number of the residents are taking advantage of the openness of the town to experiment with solar and wind power as well as energy efficient forms of residential architecture.
Caroline has 6,740 acres of state land divided among all or parts of Potato Hill, Shindagin Hollow, and Hammond Hill state forests. The Finger Lakes Land Trust owns 72 acres of wetland woods on Flat Iron Road called Goetchius Wetland Preserve and Cornell University owns a large parcel of rolling topography that is mostly meadow on Vandemark Road called Dunlop Meadow and two wooded parcels on Bald Hill. All this land is open to the public.
Birding is good anywhere in the town, but Hammond Hill State Forest seems to always turn up some interesting birds, especially warblers. In addition, during spring and summer, you might keep an eye open for waterthrushes in Boyer Creek, which runs along Old 76 Road, in the southeast corner of the town, and for winter wrens in Shindagin Hollow State Forest.
Biking, too, is good anywhere in the town. Slaterville Road (State Route 79 out of Ithaca) is excellent for touring bikes as the road has a wide, paved shoulder and is relatively flat. The rest of the town is good for hybrid and mountain bikes. Mountain biking is especially popular on a dedicated trail in Shindagain Hollow State Forest.
Camping is allowed in the state forests. Groups and individuals wishing to stay longer than 3 nights must have a permit.
Cross-country skiing is excellent in both Shindagin and Hammond Hill. Caroline tends to be colder, has more snow, and keeps that snow longer than other parts of the county.
Hiking is very popular in Caroline as the Finger Lakes Trail winds through all the state forests. (See the pages for the individual state forests for more information.)
Brochure (pdf) (best if printed on 8.5" x 14" paper)
2670 Slaterville Rd.
Slaterville Springs, NY 14881
904 E. Shore Dr.
Ithaca, NY 14850
N.B. These are very large maps and may encompass more than the Town of Caroline.
GIS Physical Map (pdf)
Accommodations in Caroline
2024 Slaterville Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-539-6319
18 Banks Rd., Brooktondale, NY 14817, 607-273-5725
RoseBarb Farm,108 Landon Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-539-6928
615 Valley Rd., Brooktondale, NY 14817, 607-539-7308
Helen's Guest Rooms
60 Brooktondale Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-272-8785
136 Thomas Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-539-7477
Arts & Entertainment
See Tompkins County
Restaurants and Pubs
See Tompkins County
See Tompkins County
Amber Accents Gift Shop
2685 Slaterville Rd., Slaterville Springs, NY 14881, 607-539-6983
63 Besemer Hill Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-539-6779
491 Brooktondale Rd, Brooktondale, NY 14817, 607-539-7900
State Rt. 79 & Landon Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850
51 Middaugh Rd., Brooktondale, NY 14817, 607-277-3853
2710 Slaterville Rd., Slaterville Springs, NY 14881, 607-330-1952
1551 Slaterville Rd. (Rt. 79), Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-272-9463
Updated 20 May 2012