From Sunday through Tuesday, my co-workers and I will be attending the Museum Association of New York annual conference in Corning. There we will attend (and present) lectures on various museum-related topics in the hope that it will help us create better programs and exhibits. We will also eat overpriced food, network (i.e. drink with our fellow professionals), and receive an award for our award-winning History They Didn’t Teach You in School program series.
Over the years, Elmira has been host to a number of conventions and conferences. Clubs like the Loyal Order of the Moose (1922), the Ku Klux Klan (1925), and the Business & Professional Women’s Club (1951) have held their state-wide annual meetings here. Religious groups like Christian Workers (1884) and the Men & Boys Religion Forward Movement (1912) met here too, while professional organizations like the Pro-Hardware Group (1947) and Ward LaFrance dealers (1968) held trade shows and professional development.
|Souvenir Program for the Loyal Order of Moose New York State Convention, Elmira, June 8-9, 1922|
What made Elmira such a popular convention spot? Well, for much of the late-19th and early-20th centuries it was very convenient. Up until the 1960s, there were three passenger lines which ran trains to the city: the Erie Railroad, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Chemung County Airport, now known as the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport, opened in 1944 offering more was to get to the city.
|Advertisement for the Mark Twain Hotel extoling Elmira's virtue as a Convention City, ca. 1950|
There were also a number of really great venues. The Park Church, with its large meeting hall and parlors, was the site of a number of religious group conventions in the late-1800s and early-1900s. The New York State Armory on Church Street was a popular site for trade shows. The Mark Twain Hotel had ball rooms, conference rooms and dining spaces which made it the ideal convention venue. Since the hotel closed in the 1970s, the Elmira Holiday Inn has filled that niche.
|Hardware convention at the Armory, July 22, 1947|
|Conference of Ward LaFrance dealers at the Elmira Holiday Inn|