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.
Building no. 3 was the old Masonic Hall next to Mr. Beckwith’s store. A landlord known as “Judge” Bundy had a grocery business 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 the office of Dr. Uriah Smith.
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 vocation in life was unknown.
The post office is marked No. 8, on the south side of the street, with Grant B. Baldwin officiating as postmaster.
“Aunty” Clymer’s candy store in Building No. 9 was occupied where she dealt out molasses candy to the boys of the village. Her shop had a low reputation. According to all accounts, “Aunty” did not move in the village “400” circle.
Building no. 11 was at the foot of Lake Street. There were four stores in it in 1832. One store was occupied by Samuel Maxwell, afterward Maxwell & Reynolds, the Reynolds being Isaac H. Reynolds.
Jonathan and Samuel Lawrence had the next store, and Frederick Burritt also had a store in the block. Ward & Richmond Jones occupied the second store, J. & S. Lawrence in the corner store, and Richmond & Ward Jones in the further one. All these stores except Haight’s sold dry goods, groceries, etc. Silas Haight also did business in this building in those early days.
The dome of the courthouse is visible in the drawing. It was built in 1824 and did duty as a courthouse until 1862, when it was moved to its location on Market Street, where it acted as Elmira’s city 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 then stood on the east corner of Fox and Water streets. Right below the bridge stood an old building. In the basement was a school, with Judge AS Thurston as the schoolmaster. A little way up Lake Street, an Irishman named Healey also taught school.
Farther up Lake Street, Elijah Jones conducted a hotel in an old yellow wooden building, and on the opposite side of the street, Miles Cook conducted a billiard room.
There, you have about all there was of the “business section” of Elmira in 1832.
Diane Janowski is the Elmira city historian. Her column appears monthly.
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