— Corning's Gaffer District —
In recognition of its historical and architectural importance, Market Street has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The street is composed of fine examples of late 19th Century commercial buildings rehabilitated as part of a comprehensive downtown revitalization program. Of particular interest are the locally manufactured decorative terra cotta details that adorn many of the buildings façades.'
Dedicated on the occasion of the New York State Preservation League 8th Annual Conference, May 16, 1981.
The Story of the Square.
The adjacent clocktower created a focal point for the community when it was constructed in 1883 in an open, brick-paved area. The clock was a gift by heirs of the community's founder, Erastus Corning. It was designed by the Rochester architectural firm of Walker and Lathrop and constructed by local builder John Cogan, who used antrum stone from a nearby quarry. French clockmaker Fessott was retained to design the workings as his clocks were reputed for their accuracy in all types of weather. For many years, the clock performed precisely, varying little more than half a second per month.
At midnight on July 31, 1912, having been neglected for over thirty years, the clock struck 2,411 times over seventeen continuous minutes. A large crowd of city residents gathered in the Square, and hundreds more lay awake in fear of some disastrous event. When the chiming finally ceased, the crowd erupted into a relieved applause and cheering.
Upon completion of the adjacent Centerway Bridge (now a pedestrian link to the Corning Glass Center) in 1921, the Square became a busy thoroughfare. At that time a large legal battle ensued over the fate of the tower, when some residents seeking the dismantling of the mute monument whose hands stood still for months at a time. After three years of dispute, clock supported prevailed and the monument remained in place.
In 1954, the clocktower was moved temporarily to the street's edge while construction was completed on "Monkey Run." This underground river was engineered to aid in flood prevention and remains beneath the Square and the tower today.
In 1989, Centerway Square was reconstructed as a city park to more fully develop its role as the gathering place it has long been for the community. The restored clocktower remains the most significant figure of the new pedestrian plaza, and a new stage was created to facilitate the numerous outdoor performances which enliven the city. The renewed Centerway Square was designed by Binghamton landscape architects Young Associated in conjunction with Corning's Market Street Restoration Agency and was developed by Corning Intown Futures.
The Bricks of the Square.
Found throughout the Square are the names of Corning area citizens and businesses. Through the purchase of commemorative bricks, they contributed to the Centerway Square Endowment Fund which will insure permanent maintenance and care of the park and its facilities. The "Buy-a-Brick" program was developed by the Market Street Restoration Agency in conjunction with the Greater Corning Area Chamber of Commerce and Corning Intown Futures.
The People of the Square.
Outstanding collaboration typical of Corning made the redevelopment of Centerway Square possible. City officials, community agencies and broad-based financial support from the public sector, businesses and individuals joined to make this a place for all to enjoy.