North Center Street in downtown Corry features a variety of small shops and restaurants. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

It’s not many outdoor recreation destinations that combine biking with artisan shops and a historic railroad junction. But that’s all available in Corry.

The town of just over 6,000 residents is the second-largest city in Erie County. Situated along the Pennsylvania Route 6 Heritage Corridor, Corry is just 15 minutes from the New York state line. 

The PA Rt. 6 Artisan Trail.

Trail is revitalizing Corry

Since 2004, small businesses have banded together to form the PA Rt. 6 Artisan Trail along the Rt 6. Heritage Corridor in northern Pennsylvania. Managed by the PA Rt. 6 Alliance, 11 counties and more than 400 artisans, creative businesses, cultural organizations and outdoor tourism businesses dot the trail. 

“One of America’s most scenic drives,” Route 6 and the Artisan Trail start in Linesville in Crawford County near the Ohio state line and travels along Route 6 to Milford near the New Jersey state line. 

Corry boasts eight members on the trail, including the Painted Finch Gallery, which features 57 locally and regionally acclaimed artists and artisans of paintings, sculptures, mosaics, ceramics, and paper sculptures. 

Artist and local entrepreneur Wendy Neckers is the owner of the Painted Finch and Epihpany’s Emporium, a shop with handcrafted gifts including minerals and metal arts, and leather goods. 

Owned by local artist and entrepreneur Wendy Nickers, the Painted Finch features 57 locally and regionally acclaimed artists. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

She opened the business with her husband in 2012 after moving back to Corry from Nashville and meeting other professional artists. 

“Corry didn’t have an outlet other than a couple weekends per year where you could display artwork,” she says. 

Neckers is also the Chairperson of the Downtown Corry Business Association. The association hosts First Fridays — Corry’s open-air markets for food, music, and artisans – each first Friday of the month from May through December from 5 to 9 pm. 

Corry is part of the PA Rt. 6 Bike Friendly Business Program to cater to outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

July 5 is themed Bikes and Brews. The PA Rt. 6 Bike Friendly Business Program has been developed to help businesses become more bike-friendly and attract more bicycling visitors.

Between the artisan trail and the plans to expand the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, Neckers says Corry hopes to be a hub for outdoor recreation in the northern part of the state.

“We’re looking to become more of an outdoor recreational community and it’s happening. It takes a little bit of time, but we’re getting there,” Neckers says. 

From Lake Erie to the Delaware River, Rt. 6 connects a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities as it passes through the Allegheny National Forest and the PA Wilds.

The PA Route 6 Alliance has plotted a series of bike loops that showcase some cycling along Route 6. Each loop ranges 15-30 miles in length, with varying skill level, and offers mixed surface riding. The Alliance’s online biking guide lists everything you need to know before hitting the trails.

“Over the years, we’ve seen more significant travel coming this way as Rt. 6 expands its promotions and really works to bring all of the different artists and businesses to the public’s attention,” Neckers says. 

The business association and Impact Corry are working to revitalize the town. Impact Corry focuses on bringing high-speed internet to all residents, preserving historic buildings, and increasing the usage of downtown retail space. 

The downtown mural welcomes visitors into Corry with a large depiction of a climax locomotive, one of Corry’s most notable industries in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was completed in July 2000 by Christine Scahalles and Scott Rispin and renovated in 2018 by Ehren Knapp. It is located at 26 North Center St. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

A history of rail 

Corry traces its history to settlers who arrived in the late 1700s to what was once a swampy valley. The Hare family built a log cabin in 1795 on the banks of the Hare Creek, just a mile north of Corry. 

Like many Western Pennsylvania towns, Corry has a legacy of railroading and industry. Hiram Cory owned land in present-day Corry that he sold to the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad in 1861. A small ticketing office and eating house was built in 1861 at the intersection of the A&GW and Philadelphia and Erie railroads. 

The railroad superintendent named the new junction after Cory, but misspelled it as Corry, which would later become the name of the town. 

The town of Corry was named after Hiram Cory, the man who sold part of his land to create the junction between the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad and the Philadelphia and Erie railroads. Corry served as an important hub between Oil City and Mayville, New York. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

The area grew with further railroad development and the discovery of oil in nearby Titusville. Corry was chartered as a borough in 1863 and a city in 1866. It served as an important railroad center due to its proximity to both oil and coal. 

Many manufacturers opened in the late 19th century, such as the Gibbs and Sterrett Manufacturing Co. and Corry City Iron Works.

The city is perhaps best known for the Climax Locomotive Works in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Climax locomotive was more affordable than other models and widely used by logging companies. The Climax Locomotive Works produced nearly 1,100 locomotives until 1928. 

The Corry Historical Society and Museum has a full-scale model of a Climax locomotive, purchased by a group of Corry residents in 1960. The engine was built in 1927 and hauled wood until 1941.

The PA Rt. 6 Artisan Trail, travels North Center Street in downtown Corry. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

Today, Corry sits as a reminder of Pennsylvania’s industrial past and the potential for a new future as a center for artisan goods and natural beauty. 

With local specialty shops and restaurants popping up on a vibrant North Center Street, Christine Temple, Director of Communications at VisitErie, says Corry’s economy is on the rise. 

“It’s not your typical small town anymore,” says Temple. “A lot of people have expectations of a one-traffic light town. Like a lot of smaller, industrial towns, when that industry started to trickle off, the towns went with them. Now, downtown Corry is seeing quite the revitalization.”

Travel along an old railroad line through the Brokenstraw Valley on this 13-mile out-and-back crushed stone trail that crosses the state line into Clymer, New York. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

If you go

Corry Junction Greenway Trail

Travel through the Brokenstraw Valley on this 13-mile out-and-back crushed stone trail, across the state line into Clymer, New York. The Oil Creek Cross Cut Railroad traveled from Oil City to Mayville from 1865 to 1978. The Northwest Pennsylvania Trail Association purchased the land in 2003. Run, walk, bike, or horseback ride in the summer or cross country ski, or snowmobile in the winter. Parking is on Hereford Road off Sciota Road.

East Branch (Spartansburg) Rails to Trails

Another rails-to-trails opportunity is just 10 minutes west of Corry, about 1.5 miles north of Spartansburg on Route 89. The East Branch Trail is an 8-foot gravel dual-lane rail trail, perfect for walkers, bicyclists, in-line skaters, and those with wheelchairs. Amish buggies frequent the route to and from the markets in Spartansburg. It was built in 2010 to help the Amish avoid dangerous roads. Spartansburg has a vibrant Amish business community, including handcrafted furniture and baked goods. 

Clear Lake is a 125-acre manmade fishing and boating lake about 0.5 miles down the trail.

The trail was part of the Chautauqua line until 1978, and today makes up a piece of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, which one day hopes to connect 270 miles of off-road trails from Presque Isle to Pittsburgh. 

Corry State Fish Hatchery

One of the oldest fish hatcheries in the nation, the Corry State Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1876 and is regarded as the state’s prototype for similar facilities. The site was originally chosen for its large springs with uniform flow and even temperature. Founded as the Western Hatchery, an 1881 Report of the State Commissioners of Fisheries regarded the site as one of the best in the nation. Today, it is a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission site and is open daily to visitors daily from 8 am to 3:30 pm.

Mead Park

Nicknamed “the place to picnic since 1949,” this 47-acre park offers playgrounds, tennis courts, hiking trails, a fitness trail, and fishing for youth 15 and under. 

Library Bar and Grill is housed in the former Corry Public Library. Photo by Ethan Woodfill.

Where to dine and shop

Before the Barrel Distillery is a craft distillery specializing in un-aged spirits and flavored moonshines. They also offer spirits to age yourself at home. 

Library Bar and Grill is housed in the former Corry Public Library. It offers pub-style fare.

Twisted Sisters Cafe offers soups, sandwiches, and smoothies.

KC’s Xpress has specialty salads, woodfired pizzas, calzones, and subs, and ice cream.

The Outdoor Guide Series is underwritten by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council as part of its effort to promote the outdoor recreation economy in Pennsylvania and neighboring areas.

A Pittsburgh native, Ethan is a freelance journalist interested in telling the stories of people doing great things to build community and sustainability. Ethan served as Editor-in-Chief of Allegheny College's newspaper, The Campus.