Elmira, New York

Elmira /ˌɛlˈmrə/ is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County, New York, United States. It is the principal city of the Elmira, New York, metropolitan statistical area, which encompasses Chemung County, New York. The population was 29,200 at the 2010 census.

City Hall Elmira NY.jpg
Flag of Elmira
Official seal of Elmira
Location in Chemung County in the state of New York
Location in Chemung County in the state of New York
Coordinates: 42°05′38″N 76°48′35″W / 42.09389°N 76.80972°W / 42.09389; -76.80972Coordinates: 42°05′38″N 76°48′35″W / 42.09389°N 76.80972°W / 42.09389; -76.80972
CountryUnited States
StateNew York
 • MayorDaniel Mandell (R)
 • City ManagerP. Michael Collins
 • City Council
 • City7.58 sq mi (19.63 km2)
 • Land7.25 sq mi (18.78 km2)
 • Water0.33 sq mi (0.85 km2)
Elevation860 ft (260 m)
 • City29,200
 • Estimate 
 • Density3,730.56/sq mi (1,440.36/km2)
 • Metro
90,070 (Chemung County)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
14901, 14904, 14905
Area code(s)607
FIPS code36-015-24229

The City of Elmira is in the south-central part of the county, surrounded on three sides by the Town of Elmira. It is in the Southern Tier of New York, a short distance north of the Pennsylvania state line.


Early historyEdit

This was long an area inhabited by indigenous people. In historic times, it was occupied by the Cayuga nation of the Iroquois Confederacy, also called the Kanawaholla.[4] They had some relations with Europeans and English over fur trading, but were relatively isolated from the encroaching settlements.

During the American Revolutionary War, the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 was mounted against the four Iroquois nations who had allied with the British and Loyalist forces. It fought a combined British-Iroquois force at the Battle of Newtown, south of the current city, in which Sullivan and his forces were victorious.[5] After the conclusion of the war, the Iroquois and the new United States made a treaty at Elmira in 1791 to settle territorial disputes in the region.[6] Most of the Seneca emigrated under pressure with the other Iroquois to Canada, where they resettled on land provided by the British Crown.

The first European-American settler in Elmira was captain Abraham Miller of the Continental Army. He built a cabin after resigning just before the Revolutionary War. Miller's Pond and Miller Street are named after him and are near the location of his house.[7]

Elmira's formationEdit

The New York legislature established the Township of Chemung, now Chemung County, in 1788. The settlement of Newtown was soon established at the intersection of Newtown Creek and the Chemung River. In 1792, the settlement at Newtown joined with the Wisnerburg and DeWittsburg settlements to form the village of Newtown. In 1808, the village officially changed its name to the Town of Elmira, at a town meeting held at Teal's Tavern. It is said the town was named after tavern owner Nathan Teal's young daughter, but that story has never been confirmed. In any case, the City of Elmira, also called "The Queen City", was incorporated in 1864 from part of the town of Elmira and the village of Elmira. The remaining part of the town of Elmira exists still, surrounding the city on the west, north and east. The city and town share an intricately entwined history. According to Amos B. Carpenter's Family History book printed in 1898, Elmira is named after Major General Matthew Carpenter's daughter. This occurred according to the book in 1821 at the constitutional convention to which Matthew was a delegate.

1869 map showing Elmira's location as a transportation hub of Chemung County

Elmira served as a transportation hub for New York's Southern Tier in the 1800s, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City, via the canal system and railroads. The city was the southern terminus of the Chemung Canal (completed in 1833); later, the Junction Canal was constructed to connect Elmira with Corning, facilitating transport of coal from the Pennsylvania mines via the Northern branch of the Susquehanna Canal system. In 1849, the New York and Erie Railroad was built through Elmira, giving the area a New York City to Buffalo route. In 1850, the Elmira and Jefferson Railroad gave the area a route north and the Elmira and Williamsport Railroad a route south in 1854. This made the city a prime location for an Army training and muster point early in the Civil War. In 1872 the Utica, Ithaca and Elmira Railroad was begun, eventually creating a route to Cortland and Syracuse via Horseheads, Breesport and VanEtten. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad was completed in 1884, which competed with the Erie's New York City to Buffalo line.

Prisoner-of-war campEdit

Civil War prison camp

A great deal of the 30-acre (120,000 m2) Union installation, known as Camp Rathbun, fell into disuse as the Civil War progressed, and the camp's "Barracks #3" were converted into a Civil War prisoner of war camp in the summer of 1864. The camp, in use from June 6, 1864, until autumn 1865, was dubbed "Hellmira" by its inmates. Towner's history of 1892 [8] and maps from the period indicate the camp occupied a somewhat irregular parallelogram, running about 1,000 feet (300 m) west and approximately the same distance south of a location several hundred feet west of Hoffman Street (Foster Avenue) and Winsor Avenue, bordered on the south by Foster's Pond, on the north bank of the Chemung River.

In the months the site was used as a camp, 12,123 Confederate soldiers were incarcerated; of these, 2,963 died during their stay from a combination of malnutrition, prolonged exposure to brutal winter weather and disease directly attributable to the dismal sanitary conditions on Foster's Pond and lack of medical care. The camp's dead were prepared for burial and laid to rest by the sexton at Woodlawn National Cemetery, ex-slave John W. Jones. At the end of the war, each prisoner was given a loyalty oath and given a train ticket back home; the last prisoner left the camp on September 27, 1865. The camp was closed, demolished and converted to farmland. Woodlawn Cemetery, about 2 miles (3 km) north of the original prison camp site (bounded by West Hill, Bancroft, Davis and Mary Streets), was designated a "National Cemetery" in 1877. The prison camp site is today a residential area.

Reformatory and correctional facilityEdit

Elmira Reformatory, circa 1897

The state legislature authorized the building of a state prison for first offenders in 1866. It opened in 1876 as the Elmira Reformatory, under the direction of Zebulon Brockway, serving offenders aged sixteen to thirty. It was the first institution of its kind, and a model for others to follow.[9] In 1970 the complex was renamed the Elmira Correctional and Reception Center.

Elmira economyEdit

In 1950, the Elmira's population peaked at about 50,000, which represented 57 percent of Chemung County's total population at the time. Today, the city has approximately 30,000 residents, which represents 34 percent of Chemung County's population. This population decline is due to the national decline in railroads and manufacturing as well as a population shift to the outer suburbs around Elmira. The Elmira Metro area has nearly 100,000 people.

The population decline began during the recession of the early 1970s during which several large employers (Ann Page, American Bridge, General Electric, American LaFrance, Westinghouse and Remington Rand) either closed their factories or moved to other states. The decline was exacerbated by the flood of 1972, during which many of the downtown businesses and single-family homes were destroyed or replaced by subsequent Urban Renewal projects in the Chemung River flood plain.

Today, the primary manufacturing employers are:

Anchor Glass Container Corporation,[10] headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is in the old Thatcher Glass facility in Elmira Heights. Anchor Glass produces a diverse line of flint, amber, green and other colored glass containers of various types and designs for the beer, food, beverage and liquor markets in North America. Anchor Glass is now wholly owned by the Ardagh Group S.A..[11]

CAF-USA Inc[12] has its main U.S. plant in Elmira Heights on the site of the former American Bridge Company. CAF USA is a subsidiary company of Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, a Spanish manufacturer of passenger rail products (including trains, high-speed trains, locomotives, light rail vehicles and other rail equipment). CAF-USA Inc trains are typically designed for North America's market, based on Spanish design and technologies.

Elmira Heat Treating,[13] established in 1962 in Elmira, offers a wide variety of heat treatment technologies to both domestic and international customers such as Hilliard Corp., Ford Motors, General Signal and others.

Hardinge, Inc. (formerly Hardinge Brothers),[14] established in 1890 and now headquartered in Elmira, manufactures precise turning machines for the domestic and international market. Starting in 1995, Hardinge began expanding their product line and over the years has acquired L. Kellenberger & Co. AG,[15] Hauser-Tripet-Tschudin AG,[16] Jones & Shipman,[17] and Usach Technologies, Inc.[18] In 2004 they also acquired Bridgeport,[19] world-famous for its milling machines and machining centers.

Hilliard Corporation,[20] established in 1905, has two locations in Elmira and serves the international market in filters, brakes, clutches and starters for a variety of industrial and commercial uses as well as consumer equipment from Polaris and MTD.[21]

Kennedy Valve,[22] located in Elmira since 1905, is one of the world's largest manufacturers of products for waterworks distribution, potable and wastewater treatment, and fire protection system projects. They are most famous for their fire hydrants which can be found around the world. Kennedy Valve was acquired by McWane in 1988.[23]

Trayer Products,[24] established in 1929, manufactures parts mostly for the heavy truck industry; primarily truck chassis parts such as king pins and shackles.

2012 TornadoEdit

On July 26, 2012, an EF1 tornado touched down near Cottage Drive off of Route 352 and traveled through Golden Glow and the rest of the city. Moderate damage was seen after the storm passed and hundreds of trees and power lines were blown down. No one was injured. The tornado was 0.5 miles (0.80 km) wide and took the city by surprise as this area has not been prone to tornadic activity.[25]

Notable peopleEdit

Geography and climateEdit

Elmira is at 42°5′23″N 76°48′34″W / 42.08972°N 76.80944°W / 42.08972; -76.80944 (42.089874, −76.809559).[59]

The Chemung River at Elmira

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 7.6 sq mi (19.6 km2), of which, 7.3 sq mi (19.0 km2) of it is land and 0.27 sq mi (0.7 km2) of it (3.56%) is water.

The Chemung River flows eastward through the city. Elmira is built almost entirely in the flood plain of the Chemung River and has suffered many floods, the worst from Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Newtown Creek, flowing from the north, joins the Chemung River at the city's southeast corner.

Interstate 86/New York State Route 17, The Southern Tier Expressway, connects with the city at Exit 56. New York State Route 14 passes through Elmira between Watkins Glen and Pennsylvania. New York State Route 13 begins near Lake Ontario and travels through Cortland and Ithaca before ending in Elmira. New York State Route 352 begins in Elmira at Exit 56 of the Southern Tier Expressway and continues West into Corning.

Climate data for Elmira, New York (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 72
Average high °F (°C) 32.9
Average low °F (°C) 15.1
Record low °F (°C) −24
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.95
Average snowfall inches (cm) 10.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.6 9.6 10.9 12.5 13.0 12.8 11.7 11.0 10.7 11.4 11.5 11.2 137.9
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 6.3 5.2 3.6 0.7 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1.4 4.1 21.4
Source: NOAA (extremes 1894–present)[60]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)27,054[3]−7.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[61]

As of the census[62] of 2000, there were 30,940 people, 11,475 households, and 6,701 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,229.5 people per square mile (1,632.0/km2). There were 12,895 housing units at an average density of 1,762.7 per square mile (680.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 82.03% White, 13.05% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.49% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.37% from other races, and 2.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.14% of the population.

There were 11,475 households, out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.3% were married couples living together, 18.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.6% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 25.1% under the age of 18, 13.0% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,292, and the median income for a family was $33,592. Males had a median income of $31,775 versus $22,350 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,495. About 17.9% of families and 23.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.6% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.

The Elmira, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area (or Elmira MSA) is frequently used for statistical information such as labor rates and includes all of Chemung County with a population in 2000 of 90,070.

The Elmira MSA was ranked as the 59th safest place to live out of 344 Metro Areas in 2005 by Morgan Quitno Press.[63]

The three largest ethnic groups in Elmira are Irish, German and Italian.[64]

City governmentEdit

Mayors of Elmira
Mayor Party Term
Daniel J. Mandell R 2016–present
Susan J. Skidmore D 2012–2015
John S. Tonello D 2006–2011
J. William O'Brien D 3/2005-2006
Stephen M. Hughes D 1998-2/2005
Howard F. Townsend R 1994–1997
James E. Hare D 1988–1993
Stephen J. Fesh Jr. R 1984–1987
Mary P. Ciccariello D 1982–1983
Robert G. Densberger R 1980–1981
John M. Kennedy D 1976–1979
Richard C. Loll R 1972–1975
Edward T. Lagonegro D 1968–1971
Howard H. Kimball R 1966–1967
Edward T. Lagonegro D 1962–1965
Edward A. Mooers R 1956–1961
Emory Strachen R 1940–1955
J. Maxwell Beers R 1936–1939
Henry W. Honan D 1934–1935
W. Glenn Sweet R 1932–1933
Frank P. Robinson D 1930–1931
David N. Heller D 1926–1929
J. Norton Wood R 1922–1925
George W. Peck D 1920–1921
Harry N. Hoffman - 1914–1919
Daniel Sheehan D 1908–1913
Z. Reed Brockway - 1906–1907
William T. Coleman R 1904–1905
Daniel Sheehan - 1902–1903
Frank H. Flood - 1900–1901
Edgar Denton De 1898–1899
Frederick Collin - 1894–1897
David C. Robinson D 1892–1894
Charles S. Davison D 1888–1892
John B. Stanchfield D 1886–1888
Henry Flood - 1884–1886
Stephen T. Arnot D 1883–1884
David B. Hill D 1882–1883
Alexander Diven R 1880–1882
Granville D. Parsons - 1878–1880
Robert T. Turner - 1876–1878
Howard M. Smith - 1875–1876
Luther Caldwell - 1873–1874
Patrick H. Flood - 1872–1873
John Arnot, Jr. D 1870–1871
Stephen McDonald - 1868–1870
Eaton N. Frisbie - 1867–1868
John I. Nicks R 1865–1867
John Arnot, Jr. D 1864–1865
* Source: City Clerk of the City of Elmira [1]

The city government is a Council-Manager form of government in which the City Manager is the primary administrator of the City. There is one mayor elected at large and six council members elected from each of six council districts. The term of office of the mayor and council members was 2 years until a 2003 referendum extended the terms to 4 years (4 year terms began after the 2007 election). The mayor and council members are all part-time employees. The City Manager, City Clerk, City Chamberlain, City Assessor, and Corporation Counsel are all appointed by the City Council. All remaining department heads serve at the request of the City Manager.

The city has 125 miles (201 km) of road, 210 miles (340 km) of water lines, and 175 miles (282 km) of sewer lines. There are four ZIP codes in the City of Elmira: 14901 (northside), 14902 (downtown), 14904 (southside), and 14905 (West Elmira).

Facts about city governmentEdit

  • The city police department employs approximately 81 full-time officers.
  • The city fire department employs approximately 60 full-time firefighters and officers.
  • The city animal shelter has a goal to become by 2007 a no-kill animal shelter based on a model by Tompkins County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • The city received $1.4 million in Community Development Block Grant funds and $368,000 in HOME funds in FY2006-2007 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These funds are used for programs and projects for low-moderate income families and neighborhood blocks.
  • The City of Elmira has more than 20 parks including Eldridge Park with a walking trail, restored carousel, skateboard park, and fishing lake and Wisner Park with memorials to veterans from World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the Fallen Officers Memorial.
  • The City Manager of the City of Elmira is currently [2] P. Michael Collins.
  • Naming rights to the Millers Pond Park were obtained by J. Howard "Buzz" Miller, an early-20th century benevolent industrialist, when his horse "Mumbo Jumbo" won a 1912 race at the Tioga Downs horse track.
  • The Chief of Police is currently [3] Joseph Kane.


The welcome sign at the entrance to the City of Elmira

The City Slogan is "Honoring the Past, Building the Future". It is featured on an Entrance sign erected in 2003 into the City from Exit 56 of the Southern Tier Expressway along with other honored Elmirans including (L to R) Brian Williams, Hal Roach, Ernie Davis, Mark Twain, Eileen Collins, John Jones, and Tommy Hilfiger. The slogan was designated by Mayor Stephen Hughes following the conclusion of a slogan contest in which Marlin Stewart, Alan and Barbara Hutchinson, and James Lloyd were recognized for their contributions to the winning slogan.

On at least two hilltops near the city (mostly on Harris Hill to the northwest) pioneer pilots established the sport of gliding in America. Harris Hill is the site of the National Soaring Museum. These sites are now recognized as National Landmarks of Soaring.

The John Brand Jr. House, John Brand Sr. House, Buildings at 104-116 West Water St., Chemung Canal Bank Building, Chemung County Courthouse Complex, Clinton–Columbia Historic District, Elmira Civic Historic District, Elmira Coca-Cola Bottling Company Works, Elmira College Old Campus, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Erste Deutsche Evangelische Kirche, Alexander Eustace House, Fire Station No. 4, William S. Gerity House, F. M. Howell and Company, John W. Jones House, Maple Avenue Historic District, Near Westside Historic District, Newtown Battlefield State Park, Park Church, Pentecostal Holy Temple Church of Jesus Christ, Pratt House, Quarry Farm, St. Patrick's Parochial Residence-Convent and School, Trinity Church, and Woodlawn Cemetery and Woodlawn National Cemetery are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[67][68][69][70]


Star-Gazette building on East Church Street




  • WETM 18 (NBC)
  • WSKA 30 (PBS, simulcast of WSKG-TV) (licensed to Corning, with which Elmira shares TV market)
  • WENY-TV 36 (ABC on DT1/CBS on DT2/CW on DT3 through The CW Plus) (studio in Horseheads, licensed to Elmira)
  • WJKP-LD 39 (MyNetworkTV) (studio and license in Corning, with which Elmira shares TV market)
  • WYDC 48 (FOX) (studio and license in Corning, with which Elmira shares TV market)

Transportation infrastructureEdit

Public transportationEdit

The Chemung County Transit System operates regularly scheduled fixed route service within the City of Elmira and Village of Horseheads. Another route links Elmira with Corning Community College, also linking passengers with the Steuben County Transit System (SCT) and Corning Erwin Area Transit System (CEATS).

Air transportationEdit

The Elmira Corning Regional Airport (IATA code ELM, ICAO code KELM) is a medium-size regional airport, and the only area airport that offers scheduled airline service. Located 7 miles (11 km) northwest of downtown, the airport has non-stop flights to Detroit in addition to seasonal flights to Atlanta served by Delta Air Lines, and two routes to Florida served by Allegiant Air with the airline serving seasonal flights to Punta Gorda and Myrtle Beach.


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External linksEdit