At the first division of the town of Cornwall in 1738, lots were laid out in a line starting near the center of the new township. George Holloway, who would become known as Cornwall’s most prominent personality for its first 16 years, built his house nearby.
When Cornwall residents petitioned in 1740 for the right to be recognized as a town and as a parish, the General Assembly appointed a committee–selected from towns other than Cornwall to provide impartiality–to choose a site for Cornwall’s meeting house. They selected a location “on the westward side of a highway that runs northward and southward . . . about twenty rods north of Mr. George Holloway’s frame” near the crossroads of Town Street and the Sharon-Goshen Road, which was to become a major thoroughfare.
Cornwall’s 20th century historian, Edward Starr, noted that Cornwall Center eventually acquired “a Green, two Congregational churches, school, store, post office, stocks, whipping post, pound for cattle, and the residences of the minister, doctor and lawyer.” The Green provided the parade ground for the militia–George Holloway was a captain–and the location of town gatherings on important public occasions. The Emmons Tavern, built in 1758 to accommodate growing numbers of travelers, displayed “large massive scrolls and roses of carved work” ornamenting the doorways and doors “wrought with curvilinear styles and panels.” The Center’s schoolhouse, eventually to become District Three, was the first in town.
In the wake of the “great schism” within Cornwall’s Congregational church, the First Church abandoned Cornwall Center in 1790 and built a new church in Cornwall Village.
District Three schoolhouse and the Methodist Episcopal Church in Cornwall Center.
Cornwall Village can be glimpsed in the far left distance.
Supplanting the First Church in Cornwall Center was the Methodist Episcopal Church, gathered in 1808. But the church was virtually the only newcomer. Otherwise, the Center gradually declined. Between 1800 and 1900, the community lost its post office, store, enforcement apparatus, many learned professionals, and most of its Green. The schoolhouse closed around 1900. It was sold and moved before World War I, certifying the depopulation of the village. After the war, summer residents, perhaps attracted by the lovely view over Cornwall Village and the hills beyond, brought and reconstructed some of the remaining old houses.