Maybe I should call this series of imprints "A city without a face". It somehow seems that way, despite some semblance of architectural and social coherence (especially in the Near Westside Historic District). It is not as gritty and fractured as Binghamton - well, few places in mid-to upstate New York really are, Kingston and Utica come to mind - but it also seems much less ambitious. Its most significant achievement probably lies well in the past: it was the starting point of the Chemung Canal, and a connector to the Junction Canal (corner of Washington and State) which - briefly - brought so much coal into Elmira that it was the logistical coal capital of the entire northeast region of the country. Major railroads followed the canal, and still played a huge part during both World Wars. Much of the extensive infrastructure is decommissioned these days, although the post-war National Highway Act in the 60s created quick road access with Route 17. At the same time, concepts of "urban renewal" swept the land, with decidedly mixed results, as can be witnessed in Syracuse, Binghamton and here. The flood of 1972 proved disastrous, and it appears as if the downtown area never really recovered. Water Street East certainly lacks vitality, and Clemens Square (not pictured) requires a complete makeover in my view.
Elmira is not a bad place to raise a family, though. Rent and real estate costs are low, and according to a recent study by an insurance group, it ranks as the fourth safest small community in the entire country (pop. under 150.000). However, once the children mature and reach college age, the area has little to offer to retain and employ them.
Visited on a rather mild Monday in mid-December with perfectly strange lighting. Olympus E-5 with PanaLeica Summilux and Elmarit lenses.
Thomas H. Hahn
© Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images