Elmira, New York - 100 hundred years ago.....

by Diane Janowski © all rights reserved

Elmira girl

I'm from ElmiraStudents took the streetcar to Elmira Free Academy - the only high school in town. Going to school was a big deal, most of us did not have a high school diploma.

10-year-old Jimmie Wheaton ran the elevator, and 12-year-old William Sheahan was a bellboy at the Rathbun Hotel on East Water Street.

Everybody lived in their own section of town and you didn’t stray somewhere that you didn't. Black folks lived on the “Eastside” of the railroad tracks. If you were white and rich, you might live on William Street or on Maple Avenue. If you were Polish, you lived in “Polander Town.” Germans lived in the “Buttonwoods.” Jews lived in “Jewtown.” The Irish lived in “Pickaway” near the cemetery on the Southside. “Regular American people” lived on the “Westside” of the railroad tracks. According to the Elmira Gazette, if you were Italian with an “unpronounciable last name”, a cop could arrest you ‘on suspicion’ and then try to figure out what to charge you with. We think that there may have been about 10 Chinese folks living somewhere in town (we're not exactly sure where because their names and addresses weren't mentioned in the census, but Chinese-named laundries were listed in the directories so we knew they were here).

There were over 65 corner grocery stores in Elmira.

The average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years.

A three-minute telephone call from Elmira to Denver cost $11. (Today it runs about $1.50 on a landline.)

The Elmira Light, Water and Railroad streetcars ran 5 a.m. until 1 a.m - everyday.

The dinner menu at the Rathbun Hotel included Navy Bean soup, Spring Chicken, Pickled Beets, Mashed Potatoes, Rhubarb Pie, and Buttermilk.

You could see Mark Twain, Edwin Booth, Lillian Russell, Laura Keene, Marie Dressler, and Eddie Foy in-person at the Lyceum Theatre on Lake Street - and afterword have a delicious turkey sandwich served by Bill Miller at the Lyceum Cafe next door.

95% of all Elmirans were born AT HOME. The average Elmiran made between $200 and $400 per year.

More ARTICLES
The Peek-a-boo Gang (of 1909)
Elmira's News at the Turn of the Century
More Elmira News

Even More News
Double D's 100 Years Ago Driving Tour
You call these Headlines?
The Classifieds - For Sale
The Classifieds - Lost and Found
175 Years Ago - Laws and Regulations
elmira
Gentlemen from Elmira

Some of our women were not quite ladies - in fact, if you went over to Railroad Avenue....

Employees worked six days a week in at Iszard’s department store.

Elmira’s own Elmendorf Salve fixed you up when you got the flu.

Elmirans had plenty of fun on the boats (or in the bushes) at Eldridge Park. Eldridge Park was known for its bushes.

Our local minor-league baseball team was the “Gladiators” until 1892 and then became the “Colonels” in 1908.

Families went swimming in the Chemung River for free. Some of us didn't come back because the river was known for its semi-monthly drownings.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the Gerrity Brothers' drugstore at the corner of Lake and Carroll Streets.

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