The best of American Western and Native American art are preserved and interpreted at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, a focal point for engaging, dynamic exhibitions and educational events in Corning, New York.
Bob and Hertha Rockwell, local business owners who had amassed an incredible collection of Western art and artifacts, Carder Steuben glass, firearms, and antique toys, originally displayed some of their vast collection in their family department store, at the site now known as the Rockwell Center.
However, the store allowed only a small portion of their growing collection to be shown, without the benefits of temperature and humidity control, security and, most importantly, the interpretation that a museum could bring. The Rockwells generously decided to donate the majority of their collection so that it could be protected, seen and enjoyed by many more people.
Making a Museum
In 1974, executives from Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) proposed that the collections be housed in a new museum in Corning. The company would provide some support, along with the Corning, New York community.
In November 1976, a temporary home for the new museum was created in the former Baron Steuben Hotel. A permanent home was found in the Old City Hall building, a grand but deteriorating structure that had been vacated in 1972 following a devastating flood caused by Hurricane Agnes.
Old City Hall was designed from the European architectural styles of the Middle Ages. Designed by architect A.J. Warner and built by Thomas Bradley in 1893, the entire project was completed for less than $29,000.
In 1972, the basement and much of the ground floor were submerged and suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Agnes. A capital campaign was launched in 1980 to generate the $2.5 million necessary to restore the exterior of the building and redesign and renovate the interior to create a suitable exhibition space.
In 1981/82, the exterior was faithfully restored, using plans produced by architect John D. Milner. The needs of the museum dictated a thorough redesign of the interior. However, the tin ceilings in the Firestation Gallery and the Art Room and the iron door to the women's jail were retained.
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