Town of Cornwall
Town Historian





Town of Cornwall Logo

Renita McGuinness

Town Historian

183 Main Street
Cornwall, NY 12518

appointment only


Welcome to the Town Historian

Famous Sons & Daughters

Nathaniel P. (N.P.) Willis – author/poet – (1806-1867) – Knickerbocker writer - while living at Idlewild in the mid-19th century, Willis left a lively picture of Cornwall in Out-Doors at Idlewild and in his articles for the Home Journal, a popular weekly for which he wrote articles detailing the charms of Cornwall scenery its healthful air and climate.  Other works include American Scenery with engravings by W. H Bartlett.

Lewis Beach – (1835 – 1886) writer/political figure/historian – came to Cornwall in 1861 and settled on a farm he named “Knoll View”.  Wrote Cornwall in 1873 detailing the beauty and history of the town including valuable information of a factual record of life in mid-19th century Cornwall.  Served as Town Supervisor (1868), elected to House of Representatives for three terms.

John Whitney "Whit" Stillman (1952-) a motion picture director, writer, and actor grew up in Cornwall-on-Hudson. He wrote and directed Love & Friendship, The Cosmopolitans, The Last Days of Disco, Barcelona, and Metropolitan, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Director at the 1990 Oscar's. His father, John Sterling Stillman (1918-2010), grandfather, Dr. Ernest G. Stillman (1884-1949), and great grandfather, James Jewett Stillman (1850-1918), all had homes in Cornwall. James, president and later chairman of The First National City Bank of New York (now Citibank), was one of the wealthiest persons in the U.S. when he died. Ernest was a researcher at the Rockefeller Institute and an amateur filmmaker. He filmed the 1920 Cornwall Memorial Celebration, which can be found on He also founded Cornwall Hospital (now Montefiore St. Luke's Cornwall), donated the land that is now Black Rock Forest, and donated 800 acres for Storm King State Park to the Palisades Park Commission.

Edward Payson (E.P.) Roe – author/horticulturist/pastor (1838 – 1888) – a visit to the scene of the great Chicago Fire inspired his first novel, Barriers Burned Away - wrote 25 books including Driven Back to Eden along with informative articles on farming.

Amelia E. Barr – author (1831 – 1919) – one of the best paid and most popular women writers of her time.  Readers admired her strong moral tone.  Wrote many novels including A Bow of Orange Ribbon.

David Sands – (1745 - 1818) - Quaker preacher – the Sands genealogy brings this family from Europe in the 1600’s to Block Island and Long Island.  Sands Point, NY named from descendants of this old family name.  In Cornwall, David, son of Nathaniel, hosted General George Washington on occasions.  When daughter Catherine married Elias Ring the Old Homestead became the Sands-Ring Homestead.  During war-time (Revolution, Civil, WWI & WWII) the home was headquarters for war efforts.

Winslow Homer – (1836 – 1910) artist – spent many summers at Houghton Farm in Mountainville where he produced a series of watercolors of farm life.

Gerald Handerson Thayer, illustrator and author was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson in 1883 where his father, the noted painter and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) built the house at the SW corner of Maple and Mountain Road which he later sold to Amelia Barr, it is now known as the Amelia Barr House. Abbott's observations of nature led him to theorize on how animals' coloration protects them from predators. Gerald wrote and helped illustrate Coloration in the Animal Kingdom: An Exposition of the Laws of Disguise Through Color and Pattern: Being a Summary of Abbott H. Thayer's Discoveries, which has been said to be the basis for camouflage techniques in World War I. Gerald died in 1939.

The Ward Brothers – champion oarsmen (1850’s – 1890’s) – the four Ward brothers achieved their greatest victory on September 11, 1871 at Saratoga’s International Regatta.  This feat was followed by single-scull matches in which the brothers also distinguished themselves.  In 1890, a regatta took place in Cornwall with two thousand spectators watching the races from the Cornwall Landing shore.  The scull was recently donated by the Storm King School to the Village of Cornwall on Hudson Historian.

Harriet J. Terry - (1885 - 1967)  - founder/educator - born in Cornwall-on-Hudson,  attended Cornwall Presbyterian Church, and was educated in the Village's school.  She attended Howard University where, in 1908, she and fifteen other women founded the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which was the first intercollegiate African American sorority.  Following graduation, Harriet went on to a career as teacher for over 40 years. 

William “Willie” Hoppe – champion professional billiards player – (1887 – 1959) – born and raised in Cornwall on Hudson.

David Petraeus – born (1952) and educated in Cornwall. Locally known by friends as Peaches.  Graduate West Point Military Academy (1974) – retired Director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), former Commander of International Security Assistance Force, former Commander of United States Central Command

Bonnie Blair – Olympic Speed Skater (winner of Gold Medal - 1994 Lillehammer, Norway) – born in Cornwall (1964)

Armand Assante – actor – raised and educated in Cornwall – movies include Lords of FlatbushMambo KingsAmerican Gangster – nominated for Emmy, Golden GlobesActors Screen Guild awards.

Nita Klein – artist – her original pastels, watercolors, and acrylic paintings have been exhibited in both local and national venues including Palisades Interstate ParkMarymount College and The River Gallery.  Her work was sold to Bloomingdales and once had a commission to create any original painting for a hotel in Manhattan where every room featured an original Nita Klein work.  Many pieces hang in restaurants, including the Cosimo’s chain.   Her art has been featured on the cover of Valley Table magazine.

Ryan Balfe – minor league baseball player - born (1975) and educated in Cornwall.  Drafted by Detroit Tigers (1994 - 2004) – plays for Seattle Mariners (2014)

Harriet Jacobs – author/abolitionist (1813?-1897) – wrote her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, while employed by Nathaniel P. Willis in Cornwall in the 1850s.

Lyman J. Abbott - author/editor/theologian/pastor (1935-1922) – lived in Cornwall-on-Hudson from 1870 until his death in 1922. In 1876 he became the Editor-in-Chief of the Illustrated Christian Weekly which in 1893 became The Outlook, a leading magazine of news and opinion in the first quarter of the twentieth century.  As Editor he traveled twice a week to New York City by train.  He wrote numerous books and articles, including Henry Ward Beecher, The Other Room, and The Theology of an Evolutionist.  At a memorial service at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, the pastor, Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, said that, “Measured by the number of people he reached, Dr. Abbott was unquestionably the greatest teacher of religion of this generation.

Djuna Barnes – artist/journalist/novelist/playwright/poet (1892-1982) – was born on Storm King Mountain but moved with her family to Long Island while still a child. Her novel, Ryder, draws on her experiences living with her eccentric family in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Her reputation was made with Nightwood, written under the patronage of Peggy Guggenheim, and published in 1937 with an introduction by T.S Elliot.  In the view of Dylan Thomas, it was “one of the three great prose books ever written by a woman.” Other notable works were, “Ladies Almanack,” a thinly disguised portrait of the author’s predominantly lesbian social life in Paris, and “The Antiphon,” a verse play.

New York Military Academy (NYMA) Alumni – many young men and women attended the military academy.  Most notable is Donald Trump – Entrepreneur (Class of 1964), Les Brown – bandleader (Class of 1932), Francis Ford Coppola – film director (Class of 1956 – did not graduate), Fairleigh Dickinson, Jr. – businessman/Politian (Class of 1937), John A. Gotti – organized crime figure (Class of 1983 – did not graduate)Stephen Sondheim – Broadway composer/lyricist (Class of 1946)

There have been numerous movies and television made in Cornwall – Michael Clayton starring George Clooney (2007), James O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra (19..), To Wong Foo, Thanks for EverythingJulie Newmar – starring Wesley SnipesPatrick Swayze (scenes shot on Route 218 – (1995), The Thin Man starring William Powell and Myrna Loy (1934), The Wrong Man, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Henry Fonda and Vera Miles (1956). Scenes shot at the Edelweiss Farm on Angola Road.


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Upcoming Events

Joint Special Meeting - Water Services

Feb 29, 2024 7:00 PM — Feb 29, 2024 8:00 PM   
Event details


Notice is hereby given that the Town Board of Cornwall and Village of Cornwall on Hudson Board of Trustees will hold a joint Special Meeting on Thursday, February 29, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. at Village Hall, 325 Hudson Street, Cornwall on Hudson 12520 to discuss an Intermunicipal Agreement for Water Services and any other business that may come before the Boards.


Doris Wickiser, Village Clerk

  • Time
    Feb 29, 2024 7:00 PM — Feb 29, 2024 8:00 PM

Planning Board Meeting

Mar 04, 2024 7:00 PM — Mar 04, 2024 8:00 PM   
  • Time
    Mar 04, 2024 7:00 PM — Mar 04, 2024 8:00 PM

CCAC Meeting

Mar 05, 2024 7:00 PM — Mar 05, 2024 8:00 PM   
  • Time
    Mar 05, 2024 7:00 PM — Mar 05, 2024 8:00 PM

Town Board Work Session

Mar 12, 2024 7:00 PM — Mar 12, 2024 8:00 PM   
  • Time
    Mar 12, 2024 7:00 PM — Mar 12, 2024 8:00 PM

Planning Board Work Session

Mar 14, 2024 1:30 PM — Mar 14, 2024 2:30 PM   
  • Time
    Mar 14, 2024 1:30 PM — Mar 14, 2024 2:30 PM