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History and Heritage in the Crystal City

21
Apr
2017

It can be said that Corning is a mecca for boutique shopping, delicious dining, and a hotspot for can't miss events. Looking beyond that there is a rich and vast history and heritage that is being told through museums, and hidden within the walls of the buildings that are passed every day. See how museums and businesses are paying homage to those who came before and keeping traditions and the history alive.

The Corning Museum of Glass draws thousands of visitors a year. Not only from Corning, but all over the world. People come to see the largest glass collection in the world, experience hands-on glass activities, and witness hot glass demonstrations. One of the biggest collections inside the museum is 3,500 years of glass with pieces from all over the world. Corning may be best known for glass, they don't call it the "Crystal City" for no reason. The Corning Museum of Glass has a special gallery dedicated to the history of glass in Corning in 'The Crystal City Gallery'. It tells the story of the beginning of glass making in Corning in 1868 up to the creation of Steuben Glass in 1903. Visit the museum and discover the world glass history intertwined with local glass history.

Glass Display at the Corning Museum of Glass
Glass Display at the Corning Museum of Glass

Just down the road from the Corning Museum of Glass you'll find the Rockwell Museum. Housed in Corning's Old City Hall, not only is the collection historical, but the building itself plays a large role in the heritage of the town. Renovations to the building were required, but pieces like an iron door to a jail cell were left behind as a reminder of the rich heritage of what the building once was. The Rockwell's art collection is focused on the American experience and was started by Bob and Hertha Rockwell, local business owners in the 1970's. After outgrowing their store the Rockwell's decided to gift their collection to the community and from there it has continued to grow. The Rockwell Museum hosts frequent lectures and events that get locals and visitors out in the community and exploring the history and heritage that they are proud to share.

Bob Rockwell and The Rockwell Museum
Bob Rockwell and The Rockwell Museum

Just around the corner is Historic Market Street in Corning's Gaffer District. While it may seem that the shops, hair salons, and restaurants all have been modernized, the buildings they are in tell different stories. Ones that can be heard on the Buildings Alive Tour. Market Street is lined with buildings of all different architectural designs, shapes, and beauty which started in 1855. Many of these buildings haven't been changed since. Take a walking tour of the street to learn about different spots along the street like the fifty-foot-tall clock tower built in 1883 that still stands in Centerway Square. Visit the Gaffer District website for information on how to start the self-guided tour.

Clock tower in Centerway Square courtesy of Corning's Gaffer District
Clock tower in Centerway Square courtesy of Corning's Gaffer District

Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes tells the story of life in the 1700 and 1800's. A collection of buildings consisting of the Benjamin Patterson Inn, built in 1796, a one room school house, an 1870's blacksmith shop, and more, really lets visitors get a feel for what it was like to live during the time period. The Benjamin Patterson Inn was the first Inn in Corning and was a place for travelers to rest and get a hot meal from the hearth fire, which is still operational today and is used during many events to village hosts. Cooley's Blacksmith Shop is not only functional, but makes many of the items that are for sale in their general store. Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes is a unique space in that it allows you to walk through, touch, and interact with a piece of history.

Hearth cooking at Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes courtesy of Stu Gallagher
Hearth cooking at Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes courtesy of Stu Gallagher

Corning is filled with history and heritage. Sometimes it's right out there and easy to see, and sometimes it takes a little digging, but it all makes Corning the vibrant and special town that people love to visit, and the town people love to live in.

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