Elmira Heights Village Hall
Elmira Heights Village Hall (268 East 14th Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Elmira Heights Village Hall, occupying the corner of Scottwood Avenue and East 14th Street, marks the eastern end of the village's commercial business district. The building is a notable example of turn-of-the-century eclecticism, combining such strictly classical features as modillions and dentils with northern European Gothic roof detailing in a style commonly known as Chateauesque.
The original section of the village hall, constructed in 1896, is a two and one-half story rectangular structure with projecting bays on the front and rear. It is constructed of building tile sheathed with a veneer of yellow brick. Detailing is executed in panels, bands, and arches of the brick, highlighted by courses, sills, and ornaments of grey cast stone. The roof is a light grey slate. A flat-roofed rectangular wing was added to the west side in 1926. Although of a more modern design, the addition does not intrude, due to the very simple design and the use of compatible materials. A small frame garage shed protrudes from the rear elevation.
While the three bays of the front elevation are strictly symmetrical, designs of the other sides conform to functional requirements of the interior spaces. The front of the building was designed to house the fire department garage space on the ground floor, with social rooms above. Three large square doors occupy the ground floor front. Originally the outer openings were arched, but these were widened and squared-off to accommodate modern fire-fighting apparatus. The original panelled double doors were replaced with standard overhead doors at the same time. Eight high, narrow windows light the garage space on each side. Courses of recessed brick form bands around the first floor exterior, angled to form flat arches for the many openings of the rear section.
The second floor is set off by a simple projecting belt course and topped by a dentiled cornice, both of grey cast stone. The second floor front is dominated by a central oriel supported by a pair of consoles. The two round-arched windows of the oriel are set off by engaged pilasters with bases and Ionic capitals of cast stone. Large cross windows light the front rooms of the second floor — two on the east, one on the west, and two (flanking the oriel) on the front. The rear section has varied fenestration; three transomed casements on the east wall and two double-hung sash and a square casement on the rear. Raised brick work forms architrave moldings around the second-floor windows, except on the rear, where low segmental arches top the windows.
The Chateauesque character of the building is displayed most strongly in the picturesque roofline, with the steep pitch of the truncated hipped roof and the gables of the wall dormers. The large dormer at center front has a Palladian style opening to an open gallery, with a small rectangular window above. The six small dormers (two each on the front, west, and east sides) have simple double-hung sash windows. Shouldered parapets of cast stone mark the steep gables of the dormers.
Near the center of the east elevation is a large square tower, designed for the alarm bell and hose-drying racks. A belfry and its elegant tile roof have been removed, leaving only the quoined square tower rising just above the roofline.
The interior room configuration of the village hall retains the original design, although functions have changed from time to time. Intentionally utilitarian, the interior boasts little elaboration, except in the firemen's social rooms on the second floor. Narrow, beaded wainscoting covers the lower walls of the dance hall which occupies the third floor.
The Elmira Heights Village Hall is both historically and architecturally significant. Built in 1896 for the newly established village of Elmira Heights, the hall has been the center of village government and civic services since that time. Designed by the prominent Elmira firm of Pierce and Bickford, it is an eclectic combination of classical and medieval motifs typical of the Northern Renaissance Revival or Chateauesque style.
See also: Elmira Heights Village — Beginnings
By 1896, it was evident that a distinct community had been established, which was incorporated as a village under a name chosen by the residents — Elmira Heights. A center for village government and services was needed, and so the present village hall was begun that same year. With the expectation that the village would soon become a town, the building was inscribed "Town Hall."
The architects chosen for this commission were partners Joseph Hart Pierce and Henry H. Bickford, Elmira's most prominent architects at that time. The firm of Pierce and Bickford was noted for the design of imposing schools and public buildings, among them the Clifton Springs Sanitarium, Elmira City Hall, and the Tioga County Clerk's Office. Adept at a range of architectural style, Pierce and Bickford chose most often to work in a Neoclassical or Beaux-Arts mode.
For Elmira Heights, however, the architects chose an eclectic style combining Italianate, Renaissance and Northern Gothic features in a design that is both sedate and picturesque. The square symmetry and horizontal banding of the first floor pulls the structure solidly to earth. On the second floor, the large cross windows and central oriel provide an air of lightness counterpoised to the dignity of the engaged Ionic pilasters and heavy cornice. In contrast to the square lines of the lower floors, the roof line is a study in angularity, formed by the sharp gables of the wall dormers, the steep pitch of the main roof, and the shoulders of the dormer parapets. In the original design, the campanile extended this angularity a story and one-half higher. However, the pyramidal roof and arched bell chamber openings of the tower have been lost, leaving only the simple square section, ornamented by quoining. On the whole the design is dignified and imposing, a suitable statement of the stability of the new government.
The village hall continued to house all village services until 1979 when a new building, designed to accommodate modern safety equipment, was completed. It is hoped that the old hall, now vacant, will continue to serve the public as a combined library, museum, and meeting place.
The Elmira Heights Historical Journal. Elmira Heights, New York, 1961. Copy in Elmira Heights research file. Historic Preservation Field Services Bureau, New York State Office of Parks and Recreation.)