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Early 1940s Street Scene – Elmira, New York

Today’s street scene photograph was taken from high above one of the principal streets in Elmira, New York. The City is located in the southern center of upstate New York about 15-miles north of the New York and Pennsylvania border.

The photo was taken just as marchers in a parade were passing underneath a railroad bridge at the far-right hand top of the image; note the flags on both curbs, bystanders waiting, and kids on bicycles just behind the last car in front of the marchers.

The oldest car in the scene appears to be a mid-1930s sedan, possibly a Packard halfway up the street on the left. One of the newest vehicles, a 1941 Ford Police or Fire Department car is at the far-left hand bottom of the image.

Tell us what you find of interest in this photo courtesy of the Chemung County Historical Society.

22 responses to “Early 1940s Street Scene – Elmira, New York

  1. In the center of the photograph is a four-door 1941 BUICK Special Sedanette and parked to the left is a what looks like a 1940 PACKARD 110.

  2. A `39 either Chrysler or Dodge coupe in the foreground driving away from us; at the right curb appears to be a `41 Oldsmobile fastback coupe.

  3. Interesting Elmira photo, following the ’40 Packard 110 are 1942 models, first a Buick, then two Hudsons, a Nash and lastly two Studebakers. A dealer’s new car introduction?

    The railroad bridge is the elevated Erie Railroad main line through the southern tier of New York, the tracks still in use by Norfolk Southern Railroad.

  4. While most automakers today can be accused of “me too” styling, I am struck by the same shape of hoods in today’s photo. The late 30’s and early 40’s was a period of tremendous change for automobiles in general , was there one car or designer who started this trend? From this angle they are all beginning to look the same. Except for the delivery vehicles.

    The men wearing hats made me smile. My grandfather still wore a hat in the late 60’s. And I guess we still do as it has morphed to sports caps.

  5. Lots of pre-war ‘frog eyed’ (head lights) in the picture but call me crazy,
    that Buick right in the middle of the pic looks like a post-war model to me.

      • The Buick is a 1942 model.

        The 1946 model had the stand alone crest at the front of the hood, but it lacked the wrap around trim pieces just above the front bumper which ended at the front wheel well. The parking lights were integrated into this trim piece in 1942. The 1946 had stand-alone parking lights. There were other differences, but these are the most obvious and can be seen in this photo.

        The 1947 and 1948 models can be easily eliminated because they did not have the stand alone crest at the front of the hood, and instead had the Buick crest in a large piece of chrome trim. They also had the stand-alone parking lights.

  6. As much as I enjoy the cars I find the most interesting photo here is the JJ Newberry store. It’s a great example of Streamline Moderne architecture and a great example of “Let’s Modernize Main Street” as an encouragement by merchants to get people to come shopping.

    • I actually miss the the older architecture. Growing up in Cleveland, We had G.C.Murphy Co., W. W. Woolworth,
      W. T. Grant’s, S.S. Kresge, etc. stores.
      Was a real treat to go to the lunch counters and sit with a phosphate while Mom shopped.
      That’s when butcher shops, bakeries, and the fish markets were in the neighborhoods.
      We lived two blocks from The Christmas Story House in the movie.

  7. What I always find interesting about these street scenes is the
    taillights on most any of the cars. They are all so small and most
    of them are located very low on the vehicle. Seems a driver would
    have to be constantly on the alert to avoid running into the guy
    ahead. Am I the only one whoever noticed this?

    • You are SO right about those little tail lights. I almost totaled my 1940 Olds grille against a 190 Ford coupe. For those of you who are concerned , alittle help. I painted the inside of my Tail Lamp housings FLAT WHITE. What a difference.

  8. Looks to be a parade! The Ford leading the way , a bunch of bicycles after the last car and people walking abreast across the road under the bridge!.

    • Interesting tho that this appears to be a single lane parade (?) with traffic moving in the opposite direction on the other side of the street. Not a big crowd either.

  9. I won’t call you crazy, but the Buick in the center is a ’42.
    They introduced a complete new style which included the
    wide grilles in ’42. More expensive models had those
    new ‘Airfoil’ fenders. Most all models had that fancy trim
    on the fenders also. Thus they still looked new and fresh
    after the war. Just a few nips & tucks and we’re off and
    running for “46.

  10. The leading Ford in the procession has “EPD” on the driver’s door, presumably for the Elmira Police Department, thus lending credence to the ‘parade’ theory.

  11. The location shown is Water Street as confirmed by the following locations. All four businesses were variety stores, so it must have made for some interesting competition. The only building still standing is the Kresge Co. store, but the front has been modified. Everything else here, with the exception of the railroad bridge, has been demolished.

    S.S. Kresge Co., 118-120 W. Water Street
    F.W. Woolworth Co., 122-124 W. Water Street
    J.J. Newberry Co., 126-128 W. Water Street
    W.T. Grant Co., 130-132 W. Water Street

    • A little light reading finds that the business district of Elmira was devastated in 1972 by Hurricane Agnes. Many of the buildings on both sides of the street, but especially those who backed up against the levee walls on the Chemung River were destroyed and downtown was never the same.

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