Cornwall is a town in Orange County, New York, USA. As of the 2010 census, the population was at 12,646. Located about 50 miles north of New York City on the western shore of the Hudson River, Cornwall has become a bedroom community for New York City. Commuter rail service is available via the Salisbury Mills-Cornwall train station, operated by NJ Transit, and several other nearby stations on Metro North Railroad. While the town is located less than an hour from the George Washington Bridge, major commuter routes like the New York State Thruway and the Palisades Parkway run nearby, but not through the heart of Cornwall.
Cornwall's Main Street, includes a co-op, gift shops, taverns, restaurants, coffeehouses, yoga studios and boutiques. Government offices, churches, parks, the riverfront, and St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital, a part of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System, are situated within walking distance of downtown. The town is a designated Tree City.
When the explorer Henry Hudson visited the region in 1609 the land was occupied by the Waoraneck Indians. In 1684 a Scotsman named Patrick McGregorie and his wife, Margaret, settled with twenty-five others on Couwanham's Hill (Plum Point). His brother-in-law, David Toshuck, the self-styled "Laird of Minivard", established a trading post on the south side of the Waoraneck at Sloop Hill. In the ensuing 50 years, English and Scotch families came to the fertile tableland above the river meadows naming it "new Cornwall" because of the marked similarity to the terrain of Cornwallshire, England, It is believed that the hamlet of Canterbury was the site of this settlement. The first recorded Town meeting was held here in April 1765, and here that public action was taken to change the name to Cornwall, in 1799. The late 1800's were the heyday of Cornwall's fame. It became a summer resort because of the natural beauty of the river, its mountain vistas, scenic trails, fresh country air and convenience to New York City via riverboat or railroad.
The area that was to become to Town of Cornwall was part of Governor Dongan's 1685 Tract. The Precinct of Cornwall was created in 1764. The Town was founded in 1788 as New Cornwall, which was changed in 1797 to Cornwall.
The nineteenth century
In the mid-19th century, Cornwall took on another personality – a health retreat. Until the early 20th century, city folk flocked to the Valley to experience the therapeutic powers they believed it to hold. The mountains, fresh air and evergreen forests were thought to offer the perfect conditions for good health and they were not far from the city. Cornwall on the west side of the Hudson became especially popular as a health retreat, offering numerous boarding houses and many conveniences of the day, including accessibility to the railroad and steamboats, as well as a telegraph office and large library. Nathaniel Parker Willis, one of the Knickerbocker writers, enjoyed the time he spent here so much he bought property in Cornwall, establishing a country home he called Idlewild. His many writings on the area helped make Cornwall a popular spot for health-seekers.
Shifting attitudes toward a more healthy lifestyle began to make the Hudson Valley popular for outdoor activities and exercise. Hiking, rowing, swimming, fishing, hunting and biking all contributed to the development in the area of summer camps as well as the notion of the summer vacation.
The A.J. Clark Store is located along Main Street in downtown Cornwall. Archer Clark built the Italianate building to house his butcher shop around 1875, after an 1870 fire destroyed his earlier quarters. It would continue in existence in that building for a century. Later, one of his descendants converted it into a delicatessen. In 1996 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as an intact commercial building dating from Cornwall's days as a summer resort town in the late 19th century.
The Carvey-Gatfield House is a stone house along Angola Road in Cornwall. It was built in the first decade of the 19th century in the Federal style. The land was originally the property of Isaac Bobbin, an early settler, until subdivided into the present parcel and sold to Mathias Carvey in 1805, around the time the house was built. Carvey had bought the property from William Robinson, two owners removed from Bobbin, to support his mill on a nearby stream. He in turn sold it to Benjamin Gatfield, in whose family it would remain for almost a century. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The Samuel Brooks House is located on Pleasant Hill Road north of the hamlet of Mountainville. Brooks, a descendant of one of Cornwall's oldest families, built this as a farmhouse around 1860. After the Civil War, summer boarders from New York City began coming to Cornwall, and Brooks quickly adapted it for use as a boardinghouse. Its location, near Schunemunk Mountain made it a desirable location for the summer boarders who made Cornwall a popular resort community in the late 19th century. In 1996 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Past residents of note
An environmental issue
In 1962, a 17-year legal battle began that launched modern-day environmental activism. Consolidated Edison proposed building a giant hydro-electric plant on the river at Storm King Mountain near Cornwall. Despite pressure from local residents, Con Ed went forward with its plan, applying to the Federal Power Commission for a license to operate such a facility. Three years later, after hearings and appeals and more hearings, the U. S. Court of Appeals set a major precedent when it sent the case back to the FPC to start the process over again. Its reasoning was based on the commission's refusal to hear much of the environmental impact testimony the first time around. For the first time in U.S. history, a court had decided that protection of natural resources was just as important as economic gain. It prompted Congress to pass the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, which requires an environmental impact study on all major projects needing an OK from the federal government.