A Glass Lover's Vacation: The Corning Glass Center

by J. D. Hanes
Issue No. 199 - November 1989

When attempting to figure out where to go on vacation this year, I was given an idea by my good friends Bernard and Sue Boyd. Their suggestion was to visit the Corning Glass Center in Corning. New York. After checking with the local A.A.A. office.and motels in the Corning area, I decided it would be a great and affordable idea. I asked a good friend to accompany me and we made the plans.

We departed Cambridge on Monday morning at 4:00 am. We felt that this way we would miss a lot of the traffic and still have most of the afternoon to spend at the Glass Center. The drive was beautiful with hills and lakes. If only the weather had cooperated with us a little more it would have been better. Going from a high in the 90's on Saturday, to a high in the Corning area of 68 on Monday was a real shock. Especially since we did not pack for that type of coolness in early August.

Twelve noon found us checking into our hotel. Checking with the clerk at the front desk, we found that we were only four blocks from the Glass Center. So. after dropping off the bags and freshening up, we were off to the Center. The building Is quite beautiful in design and is covered on the outside in mirror glass. Upon entering and paying the admission fee, you walk up a ramp to view a beautiful sculpture, in three parts, made of beautiful crystal. It is about ten feet high. In this area are directions as to how to get to the three different areas of the Center. the areas are: the Museum of Glass; the Hall of Science and Industry; and the Steuben Glass Factory. We decided, of course, that the Museum is the first place to start.

For lack of a better term the word "fantastic" will have to suffice for the description of this museum. The Museum is divided into mini-galleries which follow in chronological order. Glass in the first two galleries falls in the time frame of approximately 1300 B.C. to 900 AD. All of the displays are well lighted and described. Needless to say, with all of the visitors pointing at glass, the fronts of the cases do get quite a few finger prints. One of the most amazing things is a display where you can touch a 2000 year old perfume bottle!

One of the oldest pieces of glass that we saw was "The Head of Amenhotep II." It is dated between 1436-1411 B.C. It has wonderful detail and is about 2" In height. Also on display, in this area, is what is called a "Cage Cup." It looks like a large cup inside of a cage. Maybe an early form of Farber Brothers type holder. The difference here is that the "cage" is all part of the glass cup. The glass has been cut and taken away so that the area between the cup and the cage is separate, only connected to the cup in a few areas.

Galleries from this area to the end of the museum cover glass making and decorating forms from 1000 A.D. to the present. In some of these areas are overhead videotape presentations showing the different types of glassware manufacture and decoration. All very informative and very well produced.

Of items in this area that were interesting to view, one was not of glass, but of wood. A complete model of a glass house, it had all of the workers, tools, molds, etc., including glass furnace with space for 16 pots of glass. Somehow, that number seemed familiar!

Continuing on to the present day of glass, there were many more beautiful displays. Some that were outstanding were: the Paperweight display, a full size table made of glass and a gondola on top made by Baccarat, a wall Mosaic and a tumbler/stem collection.

The final area is where the special display for the year is located. This year's theme is "200 years of Presidential Dinner Ware." It was very lovely and informative.

After stopping in the Museum bookstore for a purchase or two, we headed down to the Hall of Science and Industry. To us, this seemed geared more to youngsters, display wise. There was a glass blowing demonstration which was interesting. Also, in this area is a 200" diameter telescope disc. It is made of Pyrex. This is one big piece of glass. It is about 5 inches thick.

Passing out of the Hall, we went through a tunnel of Pyrex glass to the Steuben Glass Factory. They have grandstand type seating where you can watch the glass being made. Also, on video screens, from above, there is a program on all of the glass making, from mixing the batch, to the final polishing. You can walk down to the bottom and stand about 8 feet from the workers, and get a close up view of the process. You are separated by a plexiglas wall, from the factory. Walking down towards the end, you see the workers doing all of the cutting, polishing inspecting, etc.

Next, you enter the Shops area. They include: the Glass Center Gift Shop; a Corning Glass Outlet store; The Steuben Glass store; and a snack shop. Needless to say, some of our money stayed in the area, but no Steuben came home with us. Too much money!

After this, we went back to the Museum for some pictures and a visit to the Rokow Library. The library is really something and I hope to spend more time in it on my next visit.

Day two found us going on the old English double decker buses to downtown Corning. This is really a beautiful place - restored to 19th century.

The major reason for this was to visit the Rockwell Museum This museum houses one of the finest collections of American Western Art in the eastern United States. It also has a collection of old guns from the 19th century and early 20th century toys. But, the main attraction, to us, is that It houses over 2000 pieces of Frederick Carder Steuben glass. This is probably one of the finest collections of this glass in the world. All of it was beautiful, but probably what we liked the best was the "Aurene" glass that he made, Very unique!

I will not go into the shopping, downtown area, or great descriptions due to the fact it does not have a great deal to do with glass. If anyone is interested in this, I do have photographs and postcards of glass of the area, and will be happy to talk with you about it.

Heading home, the main topic of conversation was different things that we had seen and done. Also, plans to make a trip there again in the near future. With the glass "bug" deeply inside, it seems the best thing to do. The Corning Glass Center and the Rockwell Museum are a definite "must see, if you are ever in the Corning, New York area.