Corning’s Old City Hall

Built in 1893, Corning’s original City Hall was designed by Rochester architect A.J. Warner. Warner chose a popular historic revival style that drew from European architectural styles of the Middle Ages. Elongated and pointed windows suggest Gothic influence, but as the heavy stone arch and massive overall appearance reveal, the main source of inspiration was the earlier Richardson Romanesque style. Corning builder Thomas Bradley used brick, locally quarried limestone, and terra-cotta in the construction. The entire project was completed for less than $29,000, funded by a bond issue.

Take a 360-Tour

Rockwell 1905 Fireman Conv
Fire Equipt 1907 H&L

From 1893 to 1974 what you see today as The Museum Store was the Corning Fire Station.  The horse-drawn fire engines were first, followed later by the gas-powered trucks.  The three large windows on the front of the building were once the fire wagon/truck doors.  The original tin ceiling remains and is a beautiful architectural detail that complements the polychromatic design with local brick and rusticated limestone quarried in Corning.

Fire Equipt 1974
City Fire Dept 1948

The Museum galleries you see today were everything from jail cells to community dance space.  The first floor housed the City Clerk, City Court, Police Department and jail cells. The second floor was the Mayor’s office and at one time, was the living quarters to the firemen.  The City Council Chambers, Public Health Department, and dentist offices all resided in the building up until 1974.  The third floor, now permanent art collection galleries, was once the community space for fairs, dances, concerts, a youth center and even the public library.

Rockwell 1980 90s
Second Floor Gallery

By the late 1960s, the building had begun to deteriorate. In the Flood of 1972, the basement and much of the ground floor were submerged and suffered extensive damage. Despite its condition, the old City Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) bought the building from the City of Corning for $1.00 and paid for the adaptive re-use renovation in order to create appropriate space for the museum collection. Architect John D. Milner developed plans for this renovation, and City Hall reopened as the Rockwell Museum in 1982.

The building went through another major renovation early in 2000.   Corning’s City Hall undertook a $6.25 million renovation providing excellence of architectural design, sound engineering, and excellent construction in the context of a building of great historical importance.   The completed was in time for the Museum to reopen in May 2001, its 25th anniversary.

The Rockwell Museum benefited not only from excellent architectural design but also from the excellent execution of the plans. Welliver-McGuire, the project general contractor, won the GBC 2001 Build New York Award for their outstanding work in construction.

Appropriately for The Rockwell’s collection of art about America, its home in Old City Hall, is distinctly American.

Other building features to look for during your visit:

  • The building’s rounded arches set below the 144 windows!
  • Located near the Museum entrance is an 1898 Geocache benchmark disk.
  • Artemus, which stands for “Art is a Must” is a bison bursting through the façade of the building.  Named by Corning residents, Artemus was created by Corning artist, Tom Gardner in 1999.
  • Women’s jail cell door is still at The Rockwell near the first floor restrooms.  Museum staff offices are in some of the former men’s cells.
  • In the ground level ceiling is a circular shape that was once the location of the fire pole.
  • Buechner Park, across Denison Parkway and kitty-corner from The Rockwell, has our bronze sculpture, Jack Knife, by artist Ed Mell (installed in 2013).
  • The Alley Art Project is a result of a special collaboration between The Rockwell and the High School Learning Center and includes several murals around downtown Corning (most located directly behind The Rockwell near the parking lot).
  • A self-guided Architectural Tour is available for download in PDF format or in print at the Museum Admission Desk.

 

+ SHARE

Events Admission Tickets Become a Member

What's Happening
at The Rockwell

African American Art

Group Tours

Explore our permanent collection or a special exhibition on a guided group tour led by one of our friendly and experienced Museum Docents, or on your own with a self-guided group tour.

Make Your Group Reservation