171 Cedar Arts Center
171 Cedar Street
CorningNY  14830
e-Newsletter Sign Up
Sign Up

171’s History

Since first opening the Bruce House doors in 1968, 171 Cedar Arts Center has provided the community with a warm, friendly home in which to explore the arts.  Over the years, with help from our supporters and our outstanding faculty we’ve grown into an award-winning organization that provides top-quality programming and instruction.  But, along the way, we have preserved a distinct, hometown flavor that makes access to the arts comfortable for everyone. 



A History of 171 Cedar Arts Center



The home that serves as the namesake for 171 Cedar Arts Center was constructed in 1852. Mr. Harry C. Heermans owned the home from 1893 until 1919 and ran several successful business ventures during that time. Together with his business partner, Thomas Lawrence, Mr. Heerman’s' companies were responsible for a wide range of services to the community. For ten years The Heerman’s and Lawrence Company was responsible for every facet of the Corning Village Waterworks, including maintenance and expansion of the system. Mr. Heermans also found himself managing extensive real estate holdings, and producing and repairing engines and machinery. As if that were not enough, he also owned Heermans and Company, a drug and wall paper company. No one at 171 Cedar Street ever stood still for very long back then -- and that set a pattern that continues into today.


The house began a new life in 1919 when it was sold to the Knights of Columbus Permanent Home Association. It was probably during this period that the building was altered. A 2000-square-foot upstairs hall was the major addition. This served as a meeting room, a place for such activities as the Knights of Columbus Friday night fish fries, and, later, as the studio for Mme. Halina's Dance Studio. The Knights of Columbus served as caretakers of this historic home until 1967.


Then, it was purchased by Douglass Bruce, a creative and civic-minded businessman, and owner/operator of Chowning Regulator Company next door. He began renting out the elegant old rooms as studios to weavers, painters and musicians. Soon, along with Justin Lubold, Bill Belden, Barbara Wilson and others, Bruce conceived of creating an organization that would be a place for artists and the community to come together in an atmosphere where both "could thrive and grow." Thus 171 Cedar Arts Center was born, and incorporated in 1968, taking its name from its address. Since its inception it has been a place for professional artists to hone their skills and show their talents, but it has also been a home for those who want to learn.

The building that has housed 171 Cedar Arts Center since 1968 is part of the Southside Neighborhood National Register District. It was built in the Italianate Style, and with few exceptions it remains close to its original character. With 8,750 square feet in two and a half stories, it has been the perfect place to learn and experience the arts. Highlights of the house include a large central hall staircase with a stained-glass skylight. Windows and doors are trimmed in an ornate fashion and several rooms feature ornate carved fireplace surrounds incorporating ceramic tile. These architectural features make for a warm and inviting home, creating an ambiance cherished by those who walk through its towering front doors with etched-glass panels.  It is, in and of itself, a work of art. In the words of Dance Co-ordinator and past Executive Director, Lois Welk, “Thousands of people cherish memories of their arts experiences in this lovely old house.  We are excited about what the future holds for 171 Cedar Arts Center and especially about the development of the ceramic arts program. Come see for yourself!”


The Bruce House now houses the Ballroom, where advanced ballet classes, social dance and hip-hop classes are held; five music studios; 171’s Business Office, and the Woodcock Ceramic Studio.




The Woodcock Ceramic Studio is a bright, clean space for learning, teaching, creating and exploring all aspects of Ceramic Arts. Our new studio is equipped with 10 pottery wheels, a slab roller, extruder, pug mill, glazing area and two new kilns. Staffed by an enthusiastic faculty made up of working professional artists, who are ready to lead you into the fascinating world of ceramic arts.  For centuries people of all cultures and times have explored this medium, creating utilitarian and sculptural objects. Our vision is to develop a program that offers courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced students as well as residencies and master classes for professional ceramic artists.





James A. Drake, the President of the First National Bank of
Corning and founder of the M.D. Walker and Co. construction business, later known as the Corning Building Co., built the Drake House in 1865. The Drake House is located at the corner of First and Cedar streets and houses dance, art, theater, and music classes along with an art gallery.


In the 1990’s the Drake House was threatened with demolition. After years of neglect, various owners, and an arson attempt, it was in ruins. Thankfully, Elise Johnson-Schmidt, then Executive Director of the Market Street Restoration Agency, and concerned 171 Cedar Arts Center board members saw great potential in the building.

171 Cedar Arts Center took on the challenge of renovation and after an exhaustive campaign was able to raise enough community awareness and funding to embark on a $3 million dollar renovation. The 13,860 square foot building now features two dance studios which convert into a 200-seat black box theater, the Houghton Gallery, art and music rooms and additional administrative offices. 


The core building is a great example of gothic-revival architecture with some influence of stick-style architecture. The additions, while definitely modern, echo the original.