The Village of Ilion was incorporated in 1852 largely due to the efforts of Eliphalet Remington, II, the founder of Remington Arms. With the firearms manufacturer located along the old Erie Canal business was booming and the population of the surrounding area increased. It became necessary to locate a post office in this location and eventually Ilion was incorporated. Most of the village buildings were erected in wood with the first known business block built by Reuben Hotaling prior to 1875. However, fires broke out on a regular basis throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century mainly due to these wooden structures. Some of the most catastrophic fires occurred in the 1880s and in 1890 when a large part of downtown Ilion went up in flames. As a result of the calamities, the Ilion Charter was amended to impose penalties for “erecting wooden buildings in the village limits” according to a March 10, 1893 Ilion Citizen newspaper article. Thus, Ilion entered an “Era of Progression and Improvement” in the late 1800s and into the early twentieth century. Many new buildings made of brick would now line the streets including Reuben Hotaling’s new 1893 three story business block on Main Street that replaced his previous wooden structure. Otsego Street would also change in appearance during this era as many brick buildings replaced their wooden predecessors. Unfortunately, many of these historic buildings that were built during this time period were razed about 70 to 80 years later during Ilion’s Urban Renewal Project.
Scope of Collection
Ilion’s Era of Progression and Improvement Collection contains photographs from 1875 to 1935. The majority of the photos are from the 1870s and 1880s. More than half of the photographs are from unknown sources, but creators of the others include Ilion photographer William Bremer, Remington Arms, Village Historian R.C. Dimock, Spedding Studio, and Ilion photographer Duane Ross. The photos were taken on Main Street, Otsego Street, and Bridge Square where the old Erie Canal passed through the village. They show how the village looked before, during, and after the building boom that occurred in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Called “The Era of Progression and Improvement,” Ilion began to replace many of its wooden buildings with brick structures along these streets.