The Town of Elmira was erected by the New York Legislature April 10, 1792, taken from the vast township of Chemung. The first Town meeting was held in the village of Newtown in May of 1792 at the tavern of William Dunn, then known as the Kline House, at the corner of East Water and Fox Streets. The township name was changed to Elmira in 1808. The first settlers of Newtown/Elmira were Col. John Hendy and John Konkle. They settled in 1788. There were no roads, only narrow beaten paths through the area. Settlers came by boat, up the Susquehanna River and the Chemung River. They hewed out sites for log cabins, tended gardens and small farms. Since its founding, the Town of Elmira has progressed from a farming area to a largely residential community. The Civil War boom, resulting from Elmira's role as a military rendezvous and later as the site of Elmira Prison Camp led to a population increase and a great demand for food and firewood. The Chemung Canal came and went; the railroads came and stayed. Industries grew, attracting hundreds of workers. Elmira College gave the town prestige. Soon the population burst urban restraints and the Town of Elmira came of age.
West Elmira has shown the greatest development and is generally recognized as a pleasant residential community. There is a fine recreational area which includes a swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts and ballfields as well as playground and picnic facilities. This is all maintained and paid for by property owners in the Park District and not by other town taxpayers.
The Northwest portion of the town has had some residential development. There is a large area encompassing a reservoir and Elmira Water Board property, Tanglewood Nature Center and some of the Elmira Correctional Facility.
A small but important area to the north also takes in a portion of the Village of Elmira Heights. This includes residential as well as commercial and industrial land use.
East Elmira's major land use has been agricultural but there has been residential development on Bowlby Road, Jerusalem Hill Road, over East Hill along old Route 17. Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery and a great part of Newtown Battlefield Park are within our boundary limits. The Town of Elmira surrounds the City on three sides, North, East and West.
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