Hidden Landmarks: Stempfle Star

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM – TV) – The Stempfle Star is an iconic figure in Elmira.

Located on top of Mount Zoar, it is one of the prime symbols of the holiday season.

This has been a symbol of Christmas in Elmira for 69 years, and is probably one of the oldest, continuously running traditions that Elmira has.

The lighting of the star is an old tradition. Anytime between Thanksgiving and New Years, if you look to the west, you will see the Stemple Star on the top of Mount Zoar.

The star was built by electrical contractor Charlie Stempfle and first lit on November 22 1950.

For the first 8 years, the star had a lower position on the road and was smaller (15 feet across) also, it was fixed.

In 1958 – Charlie redid the star, and built it to its current size of 26 feet across from tip to tip

Additionally, a mechanism was built that makes the star move from side to side.

The star is lit using 100 lights, and stands 60 feet high.

Traditionally, the star is lit on Thanksgiving Eve – and remains lit until New Year’s night.

Elmira Kiwanis maintained the star from 1973 – 1986.

From 1986 until 1988 private individuals kept this star burning bright.

The Southport Kiwanis took over the maintenance of the star back in 1988.

Really the Star (to the west) and the Hilltop wreath (to the east) are the “bookends” of the holiday season

I really want to thank Charlie Stepmphle for the incredible legacy he has left behind for all of us. It is rare that a person can create something in their lifetime that can stand the test of time.

The Stempfle Star and its history in the region isn’t a tradition that is known throughout the world. It is not an American tradition, it isn’t even a New York state tradition. This is a symbol that is known to people who either live or have lived in Elmira.

This is the longstanding tradition and a tradition that will assuredly get passed along to the next generation.

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