A new book featuring photos of Hornell offers a glimpse into the city’s past.
Kirk House, a history instructor at Genesee Community College and former curator of the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, recently announced a new addition to the Images of America series by Acadia Publishing about the history of the Maple City.
The book “Around Hornell” is one of many House has compiled about local history.
“I’ve done a number of books for Acadia,” House said. “This will be my 11th.”
House has compiled books on Bath, Corning, Watkins Glen and its racing history, two on aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, one on the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company and on women in aviation.
Work on the book began about a year ago, he said, when Acadia came to him hoping to have a book compiled on Hornell.
“First of all, you have to have good sources to get photos,” he said.
Many of the photos came from the area historical societies, the Erie Depot Museum and local historians.
“The city archives are really terrific,” he added, saying he received much help from Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan.
Then opening chapter, The Maple City, shows how Hornell looked in its early history, including its long history of flooding.
“They are important stages in the city’s history,” House said, adding each ushered in a new era of rebuilding.
Many pictures in the book date to the Flood of 1935, which killed 40 people across the region, destroyed miles of railroad track, bridges and roads.
“The 1935 flood was actually a series of many simultaneous floods. It was a series of tremendously heavy rains passing through,” he said.
Other than having a large selection of photos available, House included the flood because it had a major lasting impact on the city — specifically when the Army Corps of Engineers building a massive flood control project including dams at Arkport and Almond.
“I think that’s a good example that the New Deal is still helping,” House continued, saying the funding for the program came from the Great Depression-fighting government spending.
With those precautions, the Flood of 1972, caused by Hurricane Agnes, had little effect on Hornell but devastated much of the Susquehanna River Basin.
The second section of the book, Working on the Railroad, is a collection of images pertaining to the railroads that have traveled through Hornell in the last 150 years.
“It’s so vital to the history of the community,” House said. “It grew up to support the railroad.”
The railroad also was featured because almost its entire history is well within the history of popular photography.
“It’s so visual. It makes for great pictures,” he added.
The Erie Railroad constructed the first line through Hornell in 1851 and eventually became home to the main maintenance shops for the entire railroad. The Erie Lackawanna Railroad shut down in Hornell in 1976.
Hornell also was home to an electric streetcar system around the turn of the century, a booming business at the time.
“They (the Steuben County Historical Society) have a great big book, a prospectus, of a system that never came around,” House said. The proposed line ran from Hornell to Bath, and in the study of the system’s feasibility, many pictures of existing streetcar lines were included — a major resource for House.
One image shows a 1960 accident at the main shop when a diesel locomotive’s brakes failed, shooting the engine through a concrete flood control levy and jutting halfway out over the Canisteo River.
In the section titled Who’s Who Around Hornell, House shows off a collection of group and portrait photos.
In this section, various sports teams, including professional baseball teams that once called Hornell home, can be seen.
One photo House pointed out was that of an early 20th century basketball team shown with very serious expressions.
“I would not want to mess with them,” he said.
The final section, Around Hornell, shows the people and landscapes of the towns surrounding Hornell, covering towns like Canisteo, Fremont and Dansville.
House said he is looking into other book ideas right now, but is unsure what will come from them.
“I hope to have a new project under way shortly,” he said.
The book, “Around Hornell,” is available in local bookstores Wednesday.