“Follow the yellow brick road.”
Many are familiar with the golden path that leads Dorothy and her companions to the wonderful land of Oz, however what some may not know is that yellow brick road was a real street — in Ithaca.
According to the Ithaca and Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau, local roads used to be paved with yellow bricks. The author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Lyman Frank Baum, was a frequent visitor to Ithaca while his future wife attended Cornell University.
When the yellow brick roads were torn up, those bricks were re-used to build a house on East Shore Drive in the 1930s.
“At some point they pulled those bricks out, and bricks are good you don’t just destroy them or throw them away. It was done at a time when people weren’t so wasteful, so they were repurposed,” said Laurel Guy, an associate broker for Warren Real Estate. “Some of them were used when they built that house.”
Gretchen Sachse, a former employee of the History Center, told Guy of the yellow bricks in Ithaca and of the house on East Shore Drive. To prove the bricks existed, Sachse took Guy to a vacant lot and pointed out where the bricks were exposed under the asphalt. Guy said this area of exposed bricks has since been covered completely by a building.
“There’s other documentation that L. Frank Baum came to Ithaca, I guess his girlfriend was here,” said Guy. “So it was this sentimental thing in a way that he was writing this story.”
Baum, originally from Chittenango, N.Y., described himself as a “mediocre man,” to autobiographer Katharine Rogers, before writing his “Oz” books.
“He was a kind of failure in life until he was about 40 and wrote the Wizard of Oz,” Rogers said. “He tried this and he tried that and he failed at all of them.”
Baum was first given the idea to write fictional stories from his mother-in-law, Matilda Gage.
“One day his mother-in-law said ‘Frank, you tell all these wonderful stories’ — because he entertained all the local children as well as his own — ‘so why don’t you write them down?’ and he did,” Rogers said.
The “yellow brick house” is located at 1114 East Shore Drive and is currently occupied.
“If you drive past [the house], you have basically found the yellow brick road,” Guy said.