The attached image shows the business section of Elmira in 1832. The area is between Baldwin and Lake Streets, on both sides of Water Street. The drawing was made from the south end of the Lake Street Bridge.
Prominent businessmen Stephen Tuttle, John Spicer and Robert Covell built the first bridge in 1824. It sank considerably in each span after a short time, and once a herd of cattle broke the first span during high water. The antlers and the cattle flew off, quite well mixed. There were three pillars next to the abutments, one in the center of each channel and another on the island.
The bridge stood for 16 years, being badly damaged in 1840 by the “Great Fire”. A covered bridge replaced it.
In the drawing, the spire of the Presbyterian Church is marked “X”. This was the first Presbyterian church erected at the corner of Baldwin and Church streets. The church was built under the pastorate of Reverend Henry Ford. Prior to this time, his church had worshiped in the courthouse.
The building marked No. 1 was the haberdashery and general store of Albert A. Beckwith, who served as the first sheriff of Chemung County in the first election after our county separated from Tioga County. His store was on the river bank, opposite the Rathbun House (where the bank of the Chemung Canal now stands). ‘Widow Wells’ occupied No. 2, a wooden building run as a boarding house.
Building No. 3 was the old Masonic Hall next to Mr. Beckwith’s store. An owner known as “Judge” Bundy had a grocery store here.
Building No. 4 was known as ‘Viall’s Block’, a long, rather shabby wooden building, and the Gazette was published here in the hands of Job A. Smith. Next to the Gazette office was Dr. Uriah Smith’s office.
Dr. Mosier occupied a small building near the riverbank, next to Piercey Briggs’ blacksmith shop.
Building No. 7 was occupied by a Mrs. Cherry, but her calling in life was unknown.
The post office is marked No. 8, on the south side of the street, with Grant B. Baldwin as postmaster.
“Aunty” Clymer’s candy store in Building No. 9 was busy where she was handing out treacle candy to boys in the village. His store had a bad reputation. By all accounts, “Aunty” did not move within the “400” circle of the village.
Building No. 11 was at the foot of Lake Street. There were four stores in 1832. One store was occupied by Samuel Maxwell, then Maxwell & Reynolds, the Reynolds being Isaac H. Reynolds.
Jonathan and Samuel Lawrence had the next store, and Frederick Burritt also had a store on the block. Ward & Richmond Jones occupied the second store, J. & S. Lawrence in the corner store, and Richmond & Ward Jones in the other. All of these stores except Haight sold dry goods, groceries, etc. Silas Haight was also doing business in this building at this time.
The dome of the courthouse is visible in the drawing. It was built in 1824 and served as the courthouse until 1862, when it was moved to its location on Market Street, where it served as Elmira’s town hall until 1895.
Above Baldwin Street there was practically nothing, but below Lake Street Stephen Tuttle and Miles Coville were in business. John Arnot’s store was then at the east corner of Fox and Water streets. Just below the bridge stood an old building. In the basement was a school, with Judge AS Thurston as schoolmaster. A little up Lake Street, an Irishman named Healey also taught at the school.
Further down Lake Street, Elijah Jones ran a hotel in an old yellow wooden building, and across the street, Miles Cook ran a pool hall.
There you have pretty much everything from the “commercial section” of Elmira in 1832.
Diane Janowski is the town historian of Elmira. His column appears monthly.
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