Southern Tier

Southern Tier

The Southern Tier is a geographical term that refers to the counties of New York State west of the Catskill Mountains along the northern border of Pennsylvania. It is a loosely defined term that generally includes the counties on that border Pennsylvania west of Delaware County inclusive.

The region is bordered to the south by the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, and together these regions are known as the Twin Tiers.

The counties (and major cities and towns) generally included in the Southern Tier are::

Also occasionally included in the "Southern Tier" designation less frequently are Schuyler County, Chautauqua County (primarily the region in the Conewango Creek watershed, other areas are part of the Niagara Frontier), Yates County, Cortland County, Tompkins County, and (far more rarely) Schoharie County, Chenango County, and Otsego County.

The actual definition varies significantly. The Encyclopedia of New York State [cite book|title=The Encyclopedia of New York State|chapter=S: Southern Tier|pages=1437|isbn=0-8156-0808|date=2005|publisher=Syracuse University Press|editor=Eisenstadt, Peter] lists only Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, and Steuben Counties as part of the Southern Tier, with anything east of that being considered Central New York. Other definitions define it as the Elmira, NY MSA, the Corning, NY μSA and the Binghamton, NY MSA, which includes Steuben, Chemung, Tioga and Broome Counties but not Chautauqua, Cattaraugus or Allegany, which are considered Western New York.

Much of the Southern Tier, except for Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties, is in area code 607. The westernmost portion of the Southern Tier is also located in New York's 29th congressional district as of 2007.


The Southern Tier is generally hilly without being mountainous. Both the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers flow through the Southern Tier in their upper reaches, as does the Allegheny River in the western Southern Tier.

The Southern Tier makes up the northernmost portion of Appalachia and lies on the Allegheny Plateau.


The Southern Tier has long been home to the people of the Iroquois Confederation. There were major settlements along the Allegheny River in Cattaraugus County, at Painted Post in Steuben County, at what is today the northeast side of Corning, New York, near Horseheads in Chemung County and along the Susquehanna River.The Seneca Nation has homelands today along the Allegheny River and a headquarters at Salamanca. There is also Indian lands on Cuba Lake in Allegany County.

The region was quickly settled by whites after the Revolutionary War, when settlers were again allowed west of the Appalachian divide. The Southern Tier shared in the economic growth of the early 19th century, but its hilly terrain made it less suitable to canal-building and, later, railroading, than the historic corridor to the north between Albany and Buffalo. Even so, it was more prosperous than the desolate northern tier of Pennsylvania.

Railroads did arrive and the Erie Line that followed the water-level of the Allegheny, Susquehanna and Delaware watersheds brought industrial progress to the region about the time of the American Civil War. The railroad and available fuel from the region's dense forests attracted Corning Glass Works to Steuben County in 1868.

The region became home to prosperous farms and small factory towns (with the exception of larger Binghamton) during the first half of the 20th century. But declines in U.S. manufacturing hit the region hard and it suffered even more than other parts of upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania.

The region's addition to the Appalachian Regional Commission, often credited to the influence of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, provided economic stimulus over the last 40 years. Government funds built the Southern Tier Expressway, highway links to the New York State Thruway, encouraged the growth of state colleges at Wellsville, Alfred and Binghamton and sought with mixed success to attract business interests relocating from the New York Metropolitan Area and urban Western New York.

For two decades, the region has tried to remake itself as a tourist destination and relocation area for retirees from big Northeastern cities. Meanwhile, agriculture and manufacturing struggle to compete regionally and globally.


The largest city in the region is Binghamton, where Binghamton University (the State University of New York-Binghamton), one of the SUNY system's four University Centers, is located.


The Southern Tier Expressway - Interstate 86 and New York State Route 17 - serves the Southern Tier. The highway is the region's major corridor and connects to U.S. Route 219 in Salamanca, U.S. Route 15 in Corning, and Interstate 81 and 88 in Binghamton.

Greater Binghamton Airport is the largest airport in the area and has flights to Detroit,Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Elmira-Corning Regional Airport also serves the area with flights to DC and areas in Connecticut. Bus service is provided along the entire I-86/NY 17 corridor by Coach USA's Shortline/Erie services from Jamestown to New York City, and Trailways connects the Southern Tier with Buffalo (at the western end in Salamanca), Sunbury/Lock Haven (at Elmira), and Syracuse, Albany and Harrisburg (at Binghamton).

Amtrak does not serve the area.


Government services are the largest employer in the area. Of second and declining importance is manufacturing. The region's manufacturing economy has suffered for decades, but factories are found in the region's larger communities. Fortune 500 materials maker Corning Inc. is headquartered in Steuben County. In addition to glass products, other factories in the region make televisions, furniture, metal forgings and machine tools.
Agriculture is also a major part of the economy. Leading products are dairy, vegetables orchard fruit and wine grapes.The area includes the northern extent of the Pennsylvania oil field and natural gas, crude oil and oil sands continue to be extracted from Southern Tier wells as they have for over a century. [Ross, Kathryn. [ There’s still oil in them thar hills] . Wellsville Daily Reporter. 12 February 2008.] [Fanelli, Patrick. [ Untapped Resource: Boom Expected Around Region] . Jamestown Post-Journal. 26 June 2008.]

The western and northern edges of the Southern Tier are known as ski country, and the hilly terrain (that forms a continental divide) is notorious for frequent and heavy lake effect snow. As a result, Ellicottville has become a "ski town" with both the Holimont and Holiday Valley resorts in the vicinity; the two resorts draw numerous tourists, particularly from Canada, from which U.S. Route 219 provides easy access.


ee also

*Twin Tiers
*Northern Tier (Pennsylvania)

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