The village of Owego, New York, (population 3,911), situated on the Susquehanna River, is the county seat of Tioga County.
The original inhabitants were the Cayuga and Onondaga tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. The fertile ground of the Susquehanna River banks also drew the community’s first settlers, James McMaster in 1785 and Amos Draper in 1787. The river provided the primary means of access to the settlement until 1808, when the Owego-Ithaca Railroad was finished and Owego attained a position of prominence among the growing trade villages of the area.
Manufacturing and industry grew and the community continued to thrive through the 19th and 20th centuries. The downtown commercial center grew in response to this economic prosperity, and large ornate commercial buildings of varying architectural styles were constructed.
Today, Owego’s major employers are the Tioga County Government and the Owego-Apalachin Central School District. A new bridge built across the Susquehanna River in 2004 showcases the village’s central business district and leads those arriving to the 1879 Tioga County Courthouse, listed on the National Register and the oldest functioning courthouse in New York.
In 2002, Owego launched the Heritage Mural Project. Paintings depicting Owego’s history appear on external windows of the 1870s Parkview Restaurant building and the Tioga County Administrative Office Building, and a 12 foot by 7 foot mural adorns the side of a bank building.
The 1910 jail house has been restored and turned into innovative apartments and the Jail House Restaurant. Owego’s historic district includes 151 homes, and self-guided walking tours take visitors past a variety of public and private buildings. Tioga County offers themed bus and walking tours on such topics as the Civil War, train depots, architecture, and the Underground Railroad.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2007.