The town of Big Flats, which had formerly been called "Great Plains,” was organized in 1822 from the town of Elmira. The town contains a hamlet also named Big Flats. As the Chemung River sharply turns, the Chemung Valley widens to create Big Flats’ distinctive geographic feature: broad flatland. Industries that could use the valley and the flatland made Big Flats known. For over a century of Big Flats’ history, farming, specifically tobacco farming and manufacturing, made use of the fertile soil and vast area of the valley flatland. In the late 1920s, the establishment of an airport, now called the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport, made use of the flatland. In 1939, the start of The Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, a sea plane and glider manufacturer, led to the valley hills becoming a popular glider launching area, called Harris Hall, that is still in use today. As highlighted in this collection, along with the tobacco and flight industries, Big Flats maintained both unique and characteristic businesses of a small town in America throughout the 20th century, in addition to community pillars such as churches, a post office, and a masonic hall.
Scope of Collection
This collection includes photographs, postcards, and ephemera relating to the history of the town of Big Flats in Chemung County, New York.