• Catherine White

Southern Tier Historical Hot Spots

Updated: Aug 10

The Southern Tier’s connection to American history is rich and deep.

In Elmira alone, a connection to some of the most crucial moments in American history are on almost every other corner.


Military and war history buffs can visit the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp, which operated from July 6, 1864 to July 11, 1865, and where 12,121 Confederate soldiers were incarcerated. Then they can stop by the John W. Jones Museum, which recognizes a former slave who arrived in Elmira via the Underground Railroad, and was responsible for burying or supervising the burial of all 2,963 prisoners who died at the prison camp, including Confederate soldiers that had been fighting for his enslavement.


Across the street from the sexton’s humble abode, turned historical location, sits Woodlawn Cemetery, where American legends of writing, sports and entertainment like Mark Twain, Ernie Davis and Hal Roach are buried. The cemetery is a serene place of comfort and beauty created in the model of the rural cemetery with rolling hills and big shade trees that change color with the seasons. Woodlawn National Cemetery, where the Confederate soldiers who perished at the Civil War Prison Camp are buried, is also located here. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 6, 2004.


There are plenty of other historical hotspots to visit in the Southern Tier, as well.


The list below is by no means complete, but they’re good places to get started.

  • Woodlawn Cemetery, at 1200 Walnut St, Elmira, NY.

  • John W. Jones Museum, open 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays (7/12) through Saturdays until mid-October at 1248 Davis St. in Elmira. You can get a virtual tour of the museum here.

  • Elmira Civil War Prison Camp is open on Saturdays from 10:30-2:30 through Labor Day and offers public tours.

  • Twain Country Summer Tours, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, through Aug. 27, starting at Chemung Valley History Museum, 415 East Water St. in Elmira, NY. Information: 607.734.4167.

  • Newtown Battlefield State Park, open dawn until dusk year-round at 2346 County Rt. 60 in Elmira, NY.

  • National Soaring Museum, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through October; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily November through April; closed Monday-Tuesday in January, February at 51 Soaring Hill Dr., Harris Hill in Elmira. Learn the history of the “Soaring Capital of America” and take a sailplane ride to view the region from the sky.

  • Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes, tours available by appointment only at noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 73. W. Pulteney St. in Corning.

  • Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, features priceless collection related to early aviation and regional history, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Oct. 31; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily Nov. 1 through April 30 at 8419 State Route 54 in Hammondsport, NY.

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