Market Street: Corning, New York
Across the Chemung River and Corning Incorporated, western New York's third-most popular tourist destination, are five blocks of opulent, 19th century Victorian commercial architecture beautifully restored along Market Street. The buildings — some dating back 180 years — along with more than 100 store-front businesses, upper-floor living quarters, and a centrally located plaza exuding European charm, make this the heart and soul of downtown Corning.
Five blocks of East and West Market between Bridge Street to the west and Wall Street to the east.
The Fortune 500 company Corning, Inc. has shaped much of Corning's history and development, but so too, have residents and community leaders. The first to call for protecting Market Street's outstanding architecture was a group of women led by Ernestine King, Jinny Wright, and Jean Wosinski during the 1960s. They later formed the group Care for Corning in the early 1970s.
Interest in planning Corning's future became even more widespread in 1972 following Hurricane Agnes, which left Market Street four feet under water. Some of the city's federal disaster funds for Agnes were used to make infrastructure improvements along the street. The nonprofit organization Market Street Restoration Agency, created two years after the hurricane, joined efforts to protect the street's historic architecture and unique qualities.
Connections fostered by the Restoration Agency with the National Trust for Historic Preservation led to Market Street becoming a national prototype for the trust's national "Main Street" program designed to help communities develop strong, locally owned businesses. With local businesses that celebrate generations of family owners, Historic Market Street is rooted in decades of tradition and long-term investment.
The progression of planning and plan implementation that began in the wake of Hurricane Agnes continues today. A second $5.2 million renovation was completed last year of the pedestrian-only Centerway Bridge that connects Market Street with the Corning Museum of Glass. The $6 million Corning Transportation Center will enable the city to better accommodate tour buses that bring a half-million visitors to the glass museum and downtown Corning each year.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Proximity to state's canal system fostered city's industrial growth; railroad arrived during 1880s
- Fire destroyed 40 buildings in downtown Corning (1856); only Concert Hall Block (2 East Market) remained; buildings along street rebuilt using predominantly brick and stone
- Brown's Cigar Store (6 West Market) built in the late 1870s in Victorian Gothic style, contrasting brick work highlights architectural features
- First Bank Building (5-9 East Market), Renaissance Revival style using applied masonry (1882)
- In 1868, the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company moved to Corning from New York City; changed its name to Corning Glass Works, and in 1989 became Corning Incorporated
- Tropical Storm Agnes brought heavy rains (1972), causing Chemung River to flood; floodwaters reached four feet on Market Street
Planning, Funding, Community Organizations
- Market Street Restoration Agency (MSRA) established 1974; oversees rebuilding of Market Street; becomes model for National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Program
- Market Street listed as a National Historic District 1974; boundaries expanded 2000; subject to numerous master plans, design guidelines, signage ordinances
- Centerway Square closed to traffic, and urban plaza created in 1989
- Since 2001, more than 20 buildings on street have undergone rehab for upper-floor residential units
- First rehabilitation — three-story, seven-unit conversion — cost $1.8 million (2009)
- Market Street Restoration Agency becomes part of Corning's Gaffer District, a business improvement district (2006); responsible for storefront and facade improvements
- Corning, Inc., has been a major funder of improvements to downtown Corning
- Downtown collaboration involving City of Corning, Corning Inc., Corning's Gaffer District, Market Street Restoration Agency, Three Rivers Development Corp., along with private sector investment
Physical Elements, Amenities, Events
- More than 100 storefronts with some family-operated businesses dating to the late 1800s; mix of retail and service businesses; more than 80 upper-floor residential units
- Predominately Victorian-era architecture including Romanesque and Gothic Revival
- Streetscape beautification include public art displays, decorative light fixtures, trash receptacles, seasonal flowers, professionally groomed trees, specialty signage, and bike racks
- Additional amenities include side-pitched curb cuts, shallow grade sidewalk ramps, intersection detector pads, and bicycle racks, funded by a Community Block Development Grant (2009)
- Centerway Square, an urban plaza on street, features a restored historic clock tower, brick pavers, benches, wrought-iron tables and chairs, honey locust trees, free Wi-Fi
- Two parks near street, Riverfront Centennial Park and Buechner Park; amenities include an outdoor pavilion and amphitheater; Centennial Park hosts the local farmers' market
- Two world-class museums, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, within walking distance of street
- Corning's Centerway Bridge, a pedestrian walkway, provides a direct route from Market Street and Centerway Square to the city's northside, which includes the Corning YMCA and the Corning Museum of Glass
- Daily shuttle provided free by the Corning Museum of Glass; features four stops, including Market Street
- GlassFest attracts more than 5,000 to street; Centerway Square hosts concerts, other events