Elmira is a city in Chemung County, New York, US. 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. It is the county seat of Chemung County.
The City of Elmira is located 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.
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. 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. 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. 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 Curtis Rumsey 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.
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 which Matthew was a delegate to.
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.
A great deal of the 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 and maps from the period indicate the camp occupied a somewhat irregular parallelogram, running about west and approximately the same distance south of a location a couple of hundred feet west of Hoffman Street (Foster Avenue?) and Winsor Avenue, bordered on the south by Foster's Pond more or less, 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 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.
As Elmira grew, so did the citizens' concern about increased crime after the end of the war; the idea of constructing a reformatory within the city had been discussed for some years. Finally, lands on which the present-day Elmira Correctional Facility resides, approximately in all (north of Bancroft across the street from Woodlawn Cemetery), were purchased in 1869 and 1870 by the state legislature, specifically for construction of the reformatory and an armory. These lay within the boundaries of the town of Elmira, rather than the city. Around the same time, Dr. Eldwin Eldridge purchased a large tract of wilderness (~ ) with a small pond, also within the township and developed it into a fabulous garden spot. His sudden death in 1876 put paid to his plans to develop the land further. After his death, Dr. Eldridge's estate granted access to the parkland to Elmira residents and tourists. In 1889, the city purchased the land, calling it Eldridge Park in the doctor's honor. The park this time held a nearly lake in its center, along with marble statuary, flower gardens, fountains, driving and walking paths and a labyrinth. In 1890, along with Eldridge Park, the reformatory and armory, the city added a well-populated area known as "Carr's Corners", an area bounded by Hoffman, West Hill and Hillcrest (old Carr Road) - and appears to include the residential area around and to the south of Woodlawn National Cemetery. .
In 1950, the population of the City of Elmira peaked at about 50,000, which represented 57 percent of Chemung County’s total population at that time. Today, the City has approximately 30,000 residents, which represents 34 percent of Chemung County’s total 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 in population.
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 more labor-friendly 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, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is located 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..
CAF-USA Inc 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, established in 1962 and located 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), 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, Hauser-Tripet-Tschudin AG, Jones & Shipman, and Usach Technologies, Inc. In 2004 they also acquired Bridgeport, world famous for its milling machines and machining centers.
Hilliard Corporation, 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.
Kennedy Valve, 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 1925.
Trayer Products, established in 1929, is located in Elmira and manufactures parts mostly for the heavy truck industry; primarily truck chassis parts such as king pins and shackles.
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 wide and took the city by surprise as this area has not been prone to tornadic activity.