Corning, New York: More than the Glass Museum

Corning Rockwell Museum
The Rockwell Museum in the restored 1893 former Corning city hall. Tab Hauser photos.

Corning, New York’s City of Glass, is a Wonderful Small Town to Visit

By Tab Hauser
Senior Writer

corning glass gown
A full size glass gown at Corning Glass Museum

Corning New York, called “America’s Crystal City”, is located in the south-central region of New York State, a four-hour drive from New York City. The region is called NY’s Southern Tier.

Corning has a very appealing “small town USA” feel with 11,000 residents. Each year nearly half a million people come here to see the world’s most comprehensive glass collection at the Corning Museum of Glass.

While the glass museum is the big draw to Corning, there is much charm about this town. Corning is a good starting place when visiting the Finger Lakes.

History, Science and the Art of Glass 

The Corning Museum of Glass was established in 1951 by the city’s largest employer, Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) on their 100th anniversary.

The museum has over 50,000 items on display. On the property is the Rakow Research Library, said to be the foremost center in the art and history of glassmaking. The library is open by appointment only.

The very diverse collections at the Corning Museum of Glass means that there is something to see for nearly anyone’s interest.

How Glass Works

Corning Ancient Glass
3500-year-old pendants of Nude female and stars

For people not into the art of glass, there is a gallery about the science and practical applications of it in the tech world.

History buffs can go through a large gallery containing 3500 years of glass objects from all over the world.

You can get up close to pieces from ancient Egypt and Northern Mesopotamia.

Glass enthusiasts will enjoy the shapes, colors and styles in the various galleries that run from practical and upscale items for the home to contemporary art.

If you are a fan of the hit television show “Blown Away”, you can get into a Corning “hot shop” with a gaffer or glassmaker.

You can pick out a shape and colors for a glass item you wish to have made. The artist will then explain every step in the process while making your piece.

During the production, you will be instructed to blow air into the long tube via a foot pedal to shape the glass piece that you will take home.

Corning Hot Shop
Corning Museum’s Hot Shop

You can watch a live 30 minute narrated version of the museum’s Blown Away demonstration from the Hot Shop stage throughout the day.

Corning couple with flowers
Gentlemen presents a glass flower to his love

Here, master craftsmen working together start with glowing molten glass at the end of the tube, blow it, mix it with color, blow again, re-heat, spin, trim, and cut a beautiful piece in under 30 minutes.

What you will see are some of the same glass-making techniques discovered by the Romans that are still in use today.

Allow two to four hours for a visit here depending on your interest or fascination with glass and extra time for their large shop.     www.cmog.org

American and Western Art in Corning

Corning’s  Rockwell Museum of Western Art is housed in the impressive old city hall built in 1893.

The building, which is worth a look by itself, is designed in a neo-Romanesque style having a stone base, with red brick towers in the middle and corners.

corning rockell Art
Native American and Western American Art are the lead exhibits at Rockwell

The inside galleries are just as good-looking as the outside.

Here you will see western and Native American art along with rotating exhibits on its three floors.

Allow an hour for your visit here.  website

Gaffer Historic District in Corning

When in Corning take time to visit Market Street in the Gaffer District.

The area is named after highly skilled artistic glass-blowing artisans.

This street has a very good small-town feel and nearly every shop is independently owned.

Corning Little Joes Tower
Little Joe’s Tower near Market Street in Corning, NY.

Corning’s Gaffer District has 100 boutiques, restaurants, glass shops, breweries and galleries. These stores are in the classic brick buildings of the time built over 100 years ago.

The street has a lot of charm. One store whose sign gets attention is the Glass Menagerie due to it being made of 560 pieces of glass.

Little Joe Tower

Closer to the end of West Market Street you can see the landmarked Little Joe Tower built in 1912.

This 200-foot tower was used in producing scientific products such as glass tubes where the molten glass would be stretched the entire length and then cut.

An excellent place for a taste of the region on Market Street would be FLX Provisions.

Corning PLX Taste
A taste of the region at PLX

Here we enjoyed a delicious charcuterie platter of locally produced cheeses and meats along with a sampling of nice wines from the Finger Lakes just 30 minutes north.

For an unusual dessert, try their warm potato chips drizzled with chocolate – tahini sauce and a local dessert wine.  website

For information on FLX and their connected restaurants click

For events and business listings in the Gaffer District visit website

Corning’s Prettiest Neighborhood

Before leaving Corning drive across the bridge to the south side of the city to Cedar Street and the Southside Historic District. 

There, weave your way up and down between 2nd and 5th streets to see many of the beautiful historic homes done in the styles of Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian architecture. There are several B & B’s in this neighborhood.

The Hands On Glass Studio allows kids and adults to blow and shape their own ornaments or paperweights.

Appointments in advance are necessary and if you are not staying in town overnight, your piece will need to be shipped to you.   www.handsonglass.com

Corning in Hot Shop
Learning glass blowing techniques in the hot shop

Lodging

We chose the recently renovated Hilton Gardens of Corning because you can walk to everything you need to see and do. A cooked to order breakfast is included. I recommend the larger suites for those that need more room or for families.

Corning Information can be found here.

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