Corning, New York is an incorporated city in Steuben County, located on the banks of the Chemung River at 42.1° north and 77.1° west. The city has a population of about 11000. The city is best known for its tradition of glass works, and as the home of Corning Incorporated.
The land was the home of the Cayuga Nation in the Iroquois Confederation at the time of european settlement. There was no large settlement in the area, but a collection of small villages with populations of up to 1000 people. During the American Revolution, General John Sullivan led a campaign through the area, destroying the native villages in retaliation for the Iroquois raids of nearby amercian settlements.
In 1789, New York State began selling land in the area to settlers. Like many of Western New York's first settlements, Corning's main industry was the harvesting of natural resources. One of the first settlers to the area, Eleazer Lindsley, brought two saws and set up a lumber mill in 1790. Logging was big business, as logs were floated down the Chemung River to larger markets in New York City and Philadelphia. One of the largest complexes of lumber mills was built just upriver from what is now Corning. Called Gang Mills, this remained a main source for lumber in the Northeast until the Amercian Civil War. When the Chemung Canal was built in 1833, a feeder canal was built to supply water to the locks. The area was now connected to the Erie Canal, which made transportation in and out of the area easier. Coal mines sprung up in the area, and began transporting their goods by steamship through the canal to Seneca Lake, to the rest of New York.
Bankers from Albany, looking to capitalize on the easy access to the area, bought land and began planning an industrial settlement. The investors decided to call the new village Corning, after Erastus Corning, who heavily financed the project. The village was built on the southern banks of the river, across from a small lumber town called Knoxville. Within a few years of it's founding, Corning was the largest village in the area. Railroads replaced the aging canal, which was closed to traffic in 1878. By 1891, 12,000 trains passed through Corning in a year. In 1890, Corning merged with Knoxville, and incorporated as the City of Corning. A streetcar line opened between Corning and nearby Painted Post, while another connected the city to Waverly and Elmira.
Growth of Industry
In 1866, Corning resident Elias B. Hungerford patented a glass window blind, and tried to sell the idea to glass manufacturers. He combined forces with Amory Houghton Sr, which owned the Brooklyn Flint Glass company. Houghton relocated his industry from Brooklyn to Corning in 1868, and renamed it the Corning Glass Company. He convinced his suppliers to put offices in Corning, which started a real estate and economic boom in the area. In a few years, many businesses had been created in the city to supply or cut glass, creating the Gaffer District of the city. Other industries also grew in Corning, including the Corning Furnace and Stove Company, Corning Stove Works, Hood and Furnace Supply Company, Corning Terra Cotta and Supply Company, and Corning Iron Works.
The Chemung River is prone to flooding during particularly heavy periods of rain. A flood in 1946 was particularly damaging, flooding homes and destroying business. At the time, it was thought that flood was exceptionally bad, and that another flood of that magnitude was unlikely to occur.
Hurricane Agnes brought torrential rain to the area in 1972, bursting dykes and causing massive flooding. Eighteen people were killed, and the surge of water drove sediment throughout the entire city. Although millions of dollars of damage was done at the Corning Glass Works, Coring Incorporated helped the city through, donating money to the recovery effort.
The Corning Glass Center was heavily damaged, with many exhibits and historical documents damaged. Many were set aside for restoration, sometimes going to extremes to keep the damage from getting worse. Several books were freeze-dried to prevent bacteria from causing further damage. Eighty present of these volumes were eventually restored.
A modest tourism industry grew in the area during the late 1970's. The new museum offers live demonstrations and hands-on exhibits on glass, glass making, and glass applications. The Rockwell Museum of Western Art is located in Corning, and contains a collection of American Western and Native American art.
The town has undergone a large historic restoration, repairing the industrial complexes of the Gaffers District, and creating new retail shops. A parking garage was built to make areas of the city more accessible.
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