A HISTORY OF 110 BALDWIN STREET
In the early 1870's when the building was first constructed, its relatively modest three story-façade was towered over by larger, even more ornate neighboring buildings that lined downtown Elmira's booming financial district, including the stately Hotel Rathbun, located just across the street. As the only remaining building from that time on this block, 110-116 Baldwin represents a substantial cross section of everything that once was Downtown Elmira, hosting an incredibly wide range of tenants and business.
The building is made up of four addresses; 110-114 built in the early 1870s, and the northernmost section of the building, 116, added soon afterward. Another addition extended the depth of the 116 portion down what was Carroll Street in the early part of the 20th century.
100 block of Baldwin Street looking south, with 110 Baldwin on the mid-left. c.1880s
100 block of Baldwin Street looking North, with 110 Baldwin on the mid-right. c.1890s
The building's first owner and major tenant on the 110 side, was the coal dealer J. Langdon & Co, later known as the Chemung Coal Company. The Elmira Sunday Telegram described the office as “the quaintest place of business in Elmira, a Dickensian establishment that has the atmosphere of 19th century London, an office unchanged since the Langdons equipped it in 1873.” The Langdon Family made their fortune through the coal trade, but are better known as the family of Mark Twain's Wife, Olivia Langdon. The office headquarters at 110 Baldwin featured a well-appointed interior of black walnut trim, a fireplace, lovely walnut desks and chairs, and Langdon family portraits adorning the office walls. On the left side, there were additional desks, and dark woodwork framed a long, high counter that required three-foot stools for the clerks. One wall was lined with six ornately carved customer service booths, with bank-sized vaults in the back. To the right of the main office was an executive inner sanctum with a large round wooden table surrounded by grill-work. It was here that Elmira's first telephone was installed in late 1877! The Langdon's sold the building in 1946 to Attorney John E. Sullivan, who soon set up shop in the former coal company headquarters. A significant early tenant of the 112 side was H.H. Billings Bookstore, which opened in 1882 and was operated by Mr. Billings until his retirement in 1914, when he passed the business to his employees, Cora and Eva Derby, who continued to run the bookstore until it suffered significant damage in the flood of 1946.
H.H. Billings Bookstore, 112 Baldwin Street, circa 1910
Elmira Star Gazette, June 14, 1932
Elmira Star Gazette, July 19, 1970
Elmira Star Gazette, July 16, 1907
Elmira Star Gazette, August 4, 1910
Elmira Star Gazette, July 2, 1965
Elmira Star Gazette, June 16, 1974
In the aftermath of the 1972 flood, urban renewal projects greatly shifted the layout of the area, demolishing more buildings, removing the 300 block of Carroll street for the Baldwin Street Parking Garage, and interconnecting the remaining buildings on the block as the now contiguous Easttowne Mall. One of the last major tenants of the building was Shreibman's Jewelry Store, which occupied the first floor space at 114-116 from 1974 to 2002. Shreibman's was already a well-established jeweler in Elmira, founded in 1893 by Louis Shreibman of Philadelphia. The original location just around the corner on East Water was damaged in the 1972 flood, causing the relocating to Baldwin Street.
110 Baldwin Street in the midst of the 1972 flood, the left picture shows the former Carroll Street running up the north face of the building, now site of the Parking Garage.
Additionally, these incredibly historic buildings have housed a window store, rug store, hat store, grocery store, piano store, small electrical appliance store, florist, furniture store, rug cleaner, sign maker, women's clothing store, auto-shop, slot-car racing, photo galleries, art studios, restaurants, offices of lawyers, brokers, doctors, insurers and architects, as well as meeting places for the Board of Education, Knights of Pythias, The Elmira Camera Club, and The Elmira Firemen's Association. When we purchased the property in 2019, much of the building was in moderate to severe disrepair. Different sections of the building had different degrees of decay, with sections of the first floor having been vacant for a relatively short time, and sections of the third floor abandoned for several decades, where the most damage was found. The slideshow below shows the building's beautiful renovated spaces in 2023, compared with photographs from the condition we found the building in when we purchased in 2019.
At nearly 150 years old, this consequential building has overseen downtown Elmira through periods of great prosperity and devastation. When we purchased the property in 2019, it had been abandoned for some time. We are working tirelessly to breathe new life into the block, restoring historic elements wherever possible, renovating for practical modern-day living, and allowing for what is hopefully at least another 150 years of history!