Downtown business section in 1832 detailed in drawing

The accompanying image shows Elmira’s business section 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 sagged considerably in each span after a short time, and once, a drove of cattle broke the first span during high water. Timbers and cattle floated away, pretty thoroughly intermixed. There were three piers beside 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 Presbyterian church spire is marked “X.” This was the first Presbyterian church standing on the corner of Baldwin and Church streets. The church was built under the pastorship of the Rev. Henry Ford. Before this time, his church had worshiped in the courthouse.

The building marked No. 1 was the dry goods and general store of Albert A. Beckwith, who was the first sheriff of Chemung County in the first election after our county split from Tioga County. His store was on the riverbank, opposite the Rathbun House (where the Chemung Canal Bank now stands). “Widow Wells” occupied No. 2, a wooden building run as a boarding house.

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