Over the years, Chemung County has been home to many architects, but our most famous local firm is that of Hiram H. Bickford (1855-1932) and Joseph H. Pierce (1863-1929). The pair joined forces in 1891 and together they designed a wide range of buildings throughout the Twin Tiers.
Joseph Pierce was the senior partner of the pair, having worked as an architect in Elmira since 1880. From 1883 to 1890, Pierce worked with Otis Dockstader, primarily designing churches and homes. One of their more famous local buildings is Elmira’s First Baptist Church, built in 1890. They dissolved the partnership over a dispute regarding professional ethics in the spring of 1890. Little is known about Hiram Bickford before he came to work for Pierce & Dockstader, except that he had worked as a draftsman at a number of firms throughout the Northeast.
Pierce & Bickford also designed a number of private residences throughout the area. Unlike their public buildings which had a clear and consistent “look,” their residential designs tended to cater to the personal style of the original client.
All told, the pair built several hundred buildings and designed the renovations for many more, including 415 E. Water Street. If you are interested in seeing examples of their draft work, the Booth Library has blueprints and concept drawings for a number of their buildings including Elmira City Hall, 415 E. Water, the S.F. Iszard’s Building and the home of Mr. R.E. Kinsman among others. For those interested in a more in-depth look at their lives and their work, we have the book Architects of Standing: Pierce & Bickford, Elmira, N.Y. 1890-1932 available for purchase in our gift shop.