Known as the “Maple City” for its many maple trees, Hornell is tucked quietly in the rolling hills of the Canisteo Valley. To some, Hornell will always be a railroad town, and it’s no wonder, given its rich railroad history dating back to the 1800s. In 1850, the New York and Erie Railroad arrived. A year later, the first passenger train came to town with two celebrated passengers on board, President of the United States Millard Fillmore and Secretary of State Daniel Webster. The emergence of the railroad signified major change, bringing prosperity to the small community that had previously depended upon lumber, fur and agriculture as its main businesses.
Eventually Hornell became the primary maintenance facility for the entire Erie line. In addition to the many everyday people who now passed through town, it wasn’t uncommon to see the rich and famous. Originally a small settlement, Hornell began to resemble a medium-sized city with hotels, banks, silk mills, woodworking factories, breweries, fairgrounds, a horseracing park, shoe factory, tannery, and even an opera house (which showed its first movie in 1909). But, as trucks became a more viable means of transporting freight, the railroad began to fade.
Although the Erie line no longer stops in Hornell, after being a presence there for 120 years, there is a wonderful city-funded museum located in the newly renovated Hornell Depot which showcases the era of the Erie Railroad.
Hornell itself hasn’t faded. It’s managed to thrive over the years thanks to a number of small businesses and the concerted efforts of the community and the Hornell Partners for Growth (HPG). In addition to some interesting specialty shops, including a three-story antique store, downtown remains active with a number of exciting events, several of which are run by the HPG.
There is an assortment of things to see and do in the Hornell area, from shopping downtown to fishing and kayaking in the Canisteo River. Trips to wineries in Hammondsport and to the Corning Museum of Glass are short and easy drives.
The Hornell Erie Depot Museum showcases the era of the Erie Railroad and contains more than 700 artifacts.
The Twin Hickory Golf Club and the Hornell Golf Club offer a variety of challenges and plenty of wonderful scenery.
Christ Episcopal Church on Main Street contains several beautiful, authentic Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Club 57 – Italian-American
Italian Villa – authentic homemade Italian and American cuisine
Marino’s Restaurant – Italian cuisine
Giovanni’s Pizza – popular pizza and wings
The Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has evolved into quite a celebration since it started, back in the 1980s, when the mayor road a horse down Main Street as the result of a bet.
The Annual Drum and Bugle Corps Celebration features a mix of junior corps, senior and senior alumni corps and top-notch high school marching bands. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the event will be held July 1 at Maple City Park.
The July 4th Festival of Events and Parade attracts large crowds to James Street Park where they enjoy music, arts and crafts, activities for children, a variety of food vendors and much more.
HPG hosts a Scarecrow Festival and Pumpkin Decorating Contest each October, which involves the entire community. Merchants decorate windows and local school children tour the assortment of creations.
Holiday Aglow, which will be held November 27, begins with a tree-lighting ceremony on Main Street and offers an assortment of fun activities, including carriage rides, Santa Land and more. This event signifies the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
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by Dave DeGolyer, Steuben County Conference & Visitors Bureau