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Buildings Alive!

Historic & Architectural Walking Tour
The Gaffer District invites you to explore Corning like you never have before. Enjoy our brilliant architecture and let your imagination wander with the stories of our storefronts. Begin your tour anywhere on Historic Market Street and find yourself bridging the gap between the past and present on our newly restored, nationally acclaimed, Historic Centerway Walking Bridge.
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
(1883) Centerway Square
50 feet high with a bell that weighs 1400 pounds, the clock tower was once a favorite watering stop for local horses. Built of Antrim stone found locally, the clock tower in Centerway Square is a memorial to Erastus Corning, for whom the City of Corning is named. It has become one of Corning's most famous landmarks and a favorite spot for visitor photos. Celebrations and festivals of various kinds take place in Centerway Square throughout the year. Take a few moments to look beneath your feet at the many bricks in honor and memory of local benefactors and preservationists.
Sound Communications - H.G. Williams Block
Sound Communications - H.G. Williams Block
Sound Communications - H.G. Williams Block
Sound Communications - H.G. Williams Block
Sound Communications - H.G. Williams Block
(1887) 25 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Eastlake
Be careful! Animals are watching over this Market Street building. Can you locate the lions' heads? Also, perched proudly atop the cornice of this building is Market Street's famous owl. It is made of terra cotta, as are all the decorative elements on the building. In the early part of the 1900s, it was common practice for a building to proudly display its name, the year it was built and the name of the architect. You will notice this building's information is presented above the entrance.
Bong's Jewelers
Bong's Jewelers
Bong's Jewelers
Bong's Jewelers
(1892) 31 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Ruskinian Venetian
Look up! Do you see the terra cotta griffin's head sculpture on this building facade? The griffin is a symbol of good luck for merchants. Bong's is the only fourth-generation store on Market Street. Established in 1892, Bong's has always sold the same type of merchandise - jewelry - at the same location. The storefront is made of Carrara Glass, also known as Vitrolite, a glass material that was commonly used in Art Deco styles in the 1920s. Designers quickly found pigmented structural glass to be an increasingly popular modernizing material for older and "out-of-date" buildings. As a result, storefronts became a favorite subject for "modernization" through Roosevelt's New Deal program.
Beaux Arts Renaissance
Beaux Arts Renaissance
The Glass Menagerie
(1903) 37 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Beaux Arts Renaissance
Walk inside this store in the afternoon as sunlight streams through the transom window and you will see that it is magically filled with rainbows. The unique leaded-glass transom was designed to be seen both from the inside and out, and the storefront's southern exposure allows the sunlight to shine through the prism glass. The sign is comprised of 560 pieces of glass and took seven weeks to complete. The facade of the building is created using a glazed terra cotta which was added in the 1920s. Near the top of the building you will notice the egg-and-dart molding. The Greeks designed the egg-and-dart molding thousands of years ago. The egg symbolizes birth and the dart symbolizes death.
Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy Hilfiger
(1885) 45 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Victorian
This beautiful Victorian building was designed by, and originally housed the offices of, H.C. Tuthill, our most famous architect and master builder. You will notice Mr. Tuthill's name on many building cornerstones throughout Corning's Historic Gaffer District. Tuthill was born in East Otto, New York; he moved to Corning in the 1850s and began work for Drake & Townley Sash and Blind Company before becoming a prominent architect.
Market Street Coffee & Tea
Market Street Coffee & Tea
Market Street Coffee & Tea (The Boston Store)
(1890) 61 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Eastlake
Originally built for the Boston Store, this building features the only second-story bay windows still in existence in a historic district for over a hundred mile radius. The basket weave design on the building is made of terra cotta, an Italian term that means cooked earth. Terra cotta was widely produced here in Corning after 1889, when the Corning Brick Works opened.
Three Birds Restaurant (Becrafts Garage)
Three Birds Restaurant (Becrafts Garage)
Three Birds Restaurant (Becrafts Garage)
Three Birds Restaurant (Becrafts Garage)
(1929) 73-75 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Modernistic
At first glance you might think this is a modern building, but it was actually built in 1929 for the Becraft Garage. The unusually large windows were used to display the new automobiles that were available for sale at the dealership. A ramp was available to take cars to the second floor and a large elevator would take vehicles to the third floor. Imagine the first Ford Model A's driving through this building!
Glasswerk Optical (The Henkel Block)
Glasswerk Optical (The Henkel Block)
Glasswerk Optical (The Henkel Block)
(1893) 72 E. Market Street
Architectural Style: Romanesque
You are looking at the Southern Tier's late 19th century skyscraper! This building was the only five-story building in New York State's western region at the time it was built. One of the ultra-modern features it offered was a hydraulic elevator that was hooked to, and powered by, a city water main. The second through fifth floors are now luxury apartments.
The Rockwell Museum (Old City Hall)
The Rockwell Museum (Old City Hall)
The Rockwell Museum (Old City Hall)
The Rockwell Museum (Old City Hall)
(1893) 111 Cedar Street
Architectural Style: Historic Revival
The buffalo bursting out of this building is named Artemus (for "art is a must"), and is the museum's mascot. Artemus was named by a local second grader in a museum-sponsored contest. Built for $29,000, this building originally served as the city hall, fire station and jailhouse for the City of Corning. Horses were kept in the back of the building to be brought inside and harnessed to fire wagons. Corning Glass Works purchased the building for one dollar in 1980 to save it from demolition. Currently, the property is home to the world-famous Rockwell Museum, featuring art about the American experience.
Brown's Cigar Store
Brown's Cigar Store
Brown's Cigar Store
(Late 1870s) 4-6 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Victorian Baroque
This is the original storefront of Brown's Cigar Store. The decorative cornice is pressed metal with cast iron columns. At the base of the lower right column you will notice the foundry name, Turner & Pond, from Elmira, New York. This facade, tiled entryway and interior floor are one of the very few original storefronts remaining on Market Street.
Bacalles Glass
Jim's Texas Hots
Jim's Texas Hots / Bacalles Glass
(1893) 8-10 1/2 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Victorian Corbelled
In the late 1800s a popular swindle was sweeping the nation. Scheming bank robbers would rent a building next to a bank, establish a credible business and during the evening hours they would tunnel into the bank's vault. Eventually they would empty the vault and the new business would be gone before dawn. During this time, two Corning gentlemen wanted to establish a bank but, with the current scam in mind, they bought two building lots to leave space between neighboring businesses and the bank vault, to be located in what is now Bacalles Glass Shop. However, after the construction was completed, the gentlemen didn't have enough funds to start the bank and they sold the buildings and the lots. Three separate shops were created by adding facades, a roof and back walls.
Sprague Insurance
Sprague Insurance
Sprague Insurance
(1895) 34 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Romanesque
The Sprague Insurance building is a handsome, renovated three-story structure built in 1895. Previously known as the May-Callahan Block, it replaced the two wood frame structures which burned on the site in previous years. This Romanesque design has terra cotta and sandstone trim and a pressed metal cornice with leaf brackets. The original tenants for this building were a confectioner, a cigar jobber, a boot and shoemaker and a dance hall. An elevator in the rear of the building made the third floor accessible for a number of uses. *This description was taken from a handwritten history of the Sprague Insurance Building compiled by our Architectural and Historic Walking Tour honoree, Mary Ann Sprague.*
Holmes Plate
Holmes Plate
Holmes Plate
Holmes Plate
Holmes Plate
(1875) 52-56 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Victorian Italianate
This three-story building speaks a language all its own. The gray stone columns at Holmes Plate contain interesting examples of carvings of symbols that were very common in the Victorian era. Often referred to as the "flower language," they include an anchor symbolizing hope, a shield for government, a flag for patriotism, a sheaf of wheat for fertility, a beehive for industry, an arm and hammer for labor, a bowl of fruit for hospitality and grapes for plenty. These carvings were not discovered until the building was sandblasted in 1974.
The Little Joe Tower
The Little Joe Tower
The Little Joe Tower
The Little Joe Tower
(1912) Chestnut Street
Look north, towards the Chemung River, to see this striking landmark. This 200-foot tower is the centerpiece of historic Corning and once served a very practical manufacturing purpose. The company, then known as Corning Glass Works, manufactured various household and scientific products, including thermometer tubing until 1973. The tubes were produced by using the "vertical draw" process. Skilled technicians and glassworkers formed molten glass batches, and then stretched them to the top of the Little Joe Tower using a cable system. This formed a long, continuous tube of hot glass. After cooling, the tubes were cut to desired lengths for thermometers. Local legend traces the name of the landmark back to a prominent glassworker who spent his days devoted to making glass thermometer tubing in the tower.
Market Street Apothecary Gift Shop
Market Street Apothecary Gift Shop
Market Street Apothecary Gift Shop
(1903) 72 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Gallery Arcade
Behold, Corning's Gaffer District's first parking garage. This building originally housed a livery stable for owners to board their horses during overnight stays in Corning. Many travelers also went to the stable for a horse while they were in town. Livery stables were some of the most important buildings in a growing town in the late 1800s.
The Hawkes Building
The Hawkes Building
The Hawkes Building
The Hawkes Building
The Hawkes Building
The Hawkes Building
(1882) 73-79 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Eastlake with Italianate Modifications
Some of the world's finest cut crystal was created right here in the Hawkes building. As T.G. Hawkes became more successful, the building was updated to include glazed terra cotta adornments. Although the company went out of business in 1976, the original sign painted on the building has been preserved as a lasting tribute to the company and to this important era in Corning's history. The building is now home to Vitrix Hot Glass Studio, which invites you to step inside and watch their master glassblowers at work.
The Club House
The Club House
The Club House
The Club House
The Club House
(1878) 51-59 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Utilitarian
This three-story structure was originally built as a flour mill. In 1926 Corning Glass Works purchased the building and renovated it as an employee recreation facility, hence the moniker Club House. The renovation included an addition on the west to accommodate a bowling alley, excavation of the basement for a swimming pool and the raising of the roof fifteen feet to allow for a basketball court.
The Rockwell Center
The Rockwell Center
The Rockwell Center
The Rockwell Center
(1881) 23-33 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Eastlake
These two buildings served the downtown as a major department store until 1991. Long before computers and modern cash registers, this building housed a unique pneumatic tube system that whisked customer receipts from one floor to another. Rockwell's Department Store, owned by Bob Rockwell, was also home to his collection of art that is now housed in the Rockwell Museum, located at 111 Cedar Street (a half block east of here). The museum houses the largest collection of western art east of the Mississippi. Take a moment following the tour to enjoy this spectacular display of Western and Native American Art.
The Baron Steuben Place
The Baron Steuben Place
The Baron Steuben Place
(1929) 1 W. Market Street
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Named in honor of the eighteenth-century German military leader, the Baron Steuben Hotel was built on the site of the old Dickinson Hotel in 1829. It was said to have offered the "latest and greatest," as well as serving as the center of all cultural and social events for the City of Corning. The Baron Steuben served a bustling clientele, taking advantage of its location between the Erie Railroad (now Denison Parkway) and the Tioga Railroad (now Tioga Avenue). Renamed Baron Steuben Place, the building now houses many businesses and the Information Center of Corning.
Other Points of Interest

While not a part of the walking tour, these other structures in the Gaffer District are worth checking out. These stops can be found when you view the map and are marked in gray.

Historic Centerway Walking Bridge

Built in 1922, the 40-foot-wide, 710-foot-long structure originally served as a pedestrian and vehicular crossing of the Chemung River until 1989. The structure acted as a pedestrian cross-way for 20 years, until 2009, when an extensive rehabilitation project was enacted to restore the bridge's historic integrity. It is not an exact replica of the original structure, but the refurbished Centerway Walking Bridge has the same historical character and many of it’s surface elements pay homage to its celebrated heritage. New and interesting features of the bridge incorporate the history and the environment of the Corning area and Chemung River Basin. The bridge acts as a walking park with green lawns and perennial gardens. The space also strives to be educational, community friendly and interactive with animal tracks, a maze, glass pavers and fun horizontal stripes to break up the pavement. In the fall of 2014, the bridge's restoration project was named the American Public Works Association Historic Restoration & Preservation Project of the Year.

Sorge's Restaurant

The site was home to many restaurants from its beginning in 1891. ​In 1951, ​Sorge’s Restaurant opened and ​grew into​ a regional hub for families who wanted to enjoy real Italian meals from brothers Renato and Remo Sorge. ​Sadly, in December 2008 a faulty furnace ignited a blaze that claimed the entire building, leaving only three side​s​ as a shell. The local community pulled together to show their​ support and urged the Sorge family to reopen.​ After a ​​major renovation, funded in part by a New York Main Street Grant administered by Corning’s Gaffer District the restaurant reopened in April ​​2010​. Local historic preservation architect, Elise Johnson-Schmidt, oversaw the rebuilding of this historic landmark.

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