Town of Urbana
Steuben County, New York est. 1822
About the Town
Welcome to the Town of Urbana. A community rich in history and beauty.
The Town of Urbana is situated near the northeast part of Steuben County. The topography of the township is divided almost equally by the valley of Keuka Lake and Pleasant Valley, which lies at the head of the lake. The lake and the valley are bounded by hills that rise above them by some thousand feet at the highest places.
The first permanent settlers came to Pleasant Valley in 1793. The area at that time was the town of Federalsburg in Ontario County. When Steuben County was formed in 1796 it became part of the Town of Bath. The Town of Urbana was officially formed from the Town of Bath on April 17, 1822.
In 1833 the Crooked Lake Canal opened. This linked Hammondsport and the Town of Urbana to the Erie Canal. For a brief period the head of the lake was a canal town and transshipping port for the northern part of Steuben County. When the railroad came through Bath in 1852 its importance was greatly diminished. In 1874 the Bath and Hammondsport railroad opened, making the canal outdated and unnecessary. The canal closed in 1877. The canal days had brought may steamboats to the lake. For decades tourists came by train to take day excursions on the steamboats.
Grapes came to the Town in the 1820s. Many acres were planted. The fruit was boxed and shipped to the city markets using the Canal and then the railroads. The Pleasant Valley Wine Co. was organized in 1860 and is Bonded Winery Number One in the United States. The most successful winery was the Taylor Wine Company. By the 1970s and 80s it was shipping millions of cases of wine annually. It stopped wine production in 1994.
In 1908, here in the Town of Urbana, Glenn H. Curtiss made the first pre-announced flight of an airplane in the United States. A prolific inventor, his motor cycle and airplane production was a great addition to the economy of the town. Today the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum celebrates his many technological contributions and breakthroughs.
Next came Mercury Aircraft Corp. which had its start in 1920 in an old barrel factory on Wheeler Avenue in the village. In 1995 Mercury aircraft acquired the 306 acre Taylor Wine complex and has since moved their local operation to that property. A portion of the property has since been given to the Finger Lakes Boating Museum to highlight the boating and boat building heritage of the Finger Lakes.
Today, besides Mercury, the majority of employers in the Town are tourism based businesses consisting of wineries, distilleries, breweries, restaurants and hotels.
-Terry Bretherton, Town Historian
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