CHEMUNG COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – People who have grown up in Chemung County have seen change.
From the bustling department stores of the 1950s and 60s to the addition of the Arnot Mall; from the devastation of the Flood of 1972 to the revitalization efforts underway today, the county has said goodbye to some things that are now only a memory.
We asked our readers what things only people who grew up here would remember. Many of the items on this list are retail and department stores that used to thrive in the Southern Tier. However, this list is not exclusive, and readers provided dozens of other memories.
Here are 11 of the most common responses:
1. Sears Roebuck in downtown Elmira
One of many retail stores that used to populate Elmira, Sears opened a downtown location on North Main Street in the mid-1950s. It closed nearly 30 years later in the early 80s as it moved into the Arnot Mall. The former retail giant then closed its doors in the mall in early 2020.
2. People’s Place
The People’s Place was a clothing store in Elmira that opened in the late 1960’s. The store operated right downtown, at the corner of North Main Street and Gray Street, the current location of First Arena.
3. Southport Carnival
Many commenters mentioned the Southport Volunteer Firemen’s Carnival. The carnival, which featured games and rides, was wildly popular and lasted decades. The final carnival was in the year 2000.
4. Mr. Peanut
Several people commented about the Planter’s Peanuts store that also used to be on North Main Street in downtown Elmira, fondly remembering the Mr. Peanut mascot that would greet passersby at the corner of N. Main and Water St.
5. Flood of 1972
The devastating flood waters of Hurricane Agnes reached far into the northeastern United States on June 23, 1972. Much of downtown Elmira was left in pieces, with extremely limited access to the southside. The flood waters also tore through Corning, leaving the people of the Twin Tiers in years of recovery. You can see more stories from people who lived through the flood here.
Yet another bustling department store—and the largest in the city—in downtown Elmira, Iszard’s closed its doors in 1988. In 2019, the building was bought by ANT Savings Corp. But in 2022, Capriotti Properties purchased the former store, along with other downtown properties.
Another popular retail store that used to operate in downtown Elmira. The Water Street store sold just about every type of clothing and accessories for men, women and children. Another Newberry’s operated out of Sayre.
8. Hills Department Store
One of the most popular memories outside of the City of Elmira, Hills Department Store was open for almost 30 years in Horseheads. The store on Lake Road closed in the late 1990s when the company was bought out by…
The once-giant discount department store chain took over the former Hills plaza on Lake Road in 1999. However, the company didn’t last long and went defunct in 2002. The store now sits empty with the Ames signs still on display.
10. The Red Barn
A hugely popular eatery in Elmira, The Red Barn had at one point two locations: South Main St. and College Ave. The business was open from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s and sold several burgers and sandwiches, along with french fries, pies and its self-referential “Barnful of Chicken” dinners and “Barnbuster” burger.
11. Eldridge Park rollercoaster
One of the items on this list that isn’t a store, but one of the memorable features of Chemung County, the Eldridge Park rollercoaster was one of the highlights of the amusement park in its glory days. The coaster doesn’t stand today, but many locals fondly remember the ride that drew people from near and far. The rollercoaster even withstood the Flood of 1972; the Chemung County Historical Society has photos of the flood waters rising up the wooden structure.