Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | October 26, 2019

A Visit to the Cornwall Community Museum

The United Counties Museum in the Wood House opened on June 12, 1958. Howard Smith Paper Mill had previously taken over the Walter Wood farm at 731 Second Street West and converted most of it for employee parking and a new wood room. Realizing the need for a community museum, the mill graciously offered use of the house to the newly reorganized SD&G Historical Society.
The Wood House on the move in 2000In 2000 when the United Counties Museum in the Wood House was relocated to our current location in Lamoureux Park and the collection was consolidated with the collection from Inverarden Regency Cottage Museum, we became the Cornwall Community Museum.

The people's museumA new cornerstone was laid, proudly announcing to all that this Museum is dedicated to the entire community of Cornwall.As such, the Museum contains several theme areas, systematically structured and sequenced to broadly represent large demographic groupings of the historic local citizenry. It is our desire that everyone who participates in one of our guided tours of the Museum will come away with a greater sense of connection to our roots and to the foundations of this great province.

We begin our tour with the Loyalist founding of the square mile town of Cornwall and progress to the present-day 31 square mile city.

The Founding of Cornwall – main floor
founding_20191019_131852 CR loresCornwall dates its founding to June of 1784, provisionally named after its military leader, Sir John Johnston, formerly of the Kings Royal Regiment of New York. Our 1840 Loyalist farmhouse was moved here in 2000 as per the framed photos.

founding_20191019_131927 CR loresOn this side of the room we have depictions of early laundry, industry and blacksmithing. The blacksmith tools of Joseph Laundrie, donated in December of 2017, include his anvil, forge tools, harness equipment and a photo of the man at work.

Entrance Area – main floor
entr_20191019_132105 loresCornwall is sometimes thought of the nation’s hub of its first national sport, lacrosse. The Lally lacrosse stick factory operated in Cornwall and other factories were nearby in Akwesasne. This combined with an abundance of champion players, a large field with grandstand and night lighting all contributed to the claim to fame. Hockey sticks were manufactured in nearby Martintown and sold from an outlet in Cornwall. The bell was once used to mark time in the government carpenter shop along the banks of the former Cornwall Canal.

entr_20191019_132019 loresPottery of all sorts was a mainstay for decades. On Cornwall’s canal bank stood a high-end pottery, known for most of its life as Flack and Van Arsdale. Although the company has been out of business for a long time, their product is still widely traded.
American Oren L. Ballard left his pottery in St John’s, Quebec to open a pottery on part of hydraulic lot 4, leased from William Mattice, along the canal race in the east end of Cornwall in 1864.

scan0016In 1868 (or 1869) Americans David Andrew Flack and Isaac Hatfield Van Arsdale purchased Ballard’s pottery. Located between the Head and Tail Race adjacent to the Cornwall Canal (just west of the Dundas Cotton Mill), Flack & Van Arsdale was the only pottery in Ontario operated by water power.

scan0021By 1870, the partners had invested $11,000 in the business and the pottery was one of only nine in Ontario to import Jersey clay. Ten men were employed year round to turn $3,000 worth of clay into $30,000 worth of merchandise. in 1900 the firm began to decline. The business was sold after the death of head potter Isaac Van Arsdale in 1907.

1900s Kitchen – main floor
VC staff_2019During the peak tourist season, the counter becomes base of operation for the City of Cornwall Visitor Centre.

Kit_20191019_132531 CR loresAt other times it reverts to Museum use. In 2019 that area commemorates the 60th anniversary of the official Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Year round the balance of the room depicts life ca. 1900-1957.

Kit_20191019_132325 loresThis typical 1900s wood stove was custom-ordered. The bevelled-edge mirrors, decorative trim and decorative tile make it a very rare stove. The Wood family who lived here also had a wood stove which replaced the open hearth behind this stove and the beehive oven in the entrance area.

Kit_20191019_132425 lores

This ice box is large and upscale in that it is metal-lined, making it more hygienic than an all-wood model. As depicted in the photo collage above the ice box, the ice was commercially harvested from the canal out front, warehoused across the street and delivered in smaller blocks as needed.

Kit_20191019_132417 CR loresFood was stored in pottery, metal and glass containers.

Kit_20191019_132407 CR loresMilk was home-delivered in glass bottles like these from local dairies. 

Kit_bottles20191019_132215 CR loresCornwall had a short-lived brewery. The community enjoyed having several local soft drink bottlers, such as Denton.

Kit_PCards_20191019_132225 loresHere at the Museum, we are pleased to offer for sale an affordable selection of vintage-style post cards and local history books.


The above represents the initial stages of a visitor experiencing a typical guided tour through the Cornwall Community Museum. Stay tuned – there is much more to follow.

LP_20191019_132824 loresOther main floor areas of the Museum include a dining room, Seaway and historic churches exhibit, gentlemen’s study and ladies’ parlour.

SR_20191019_094952_loresThe top floor of the house includes a 1940s bedroom, overlaid with a cotton mill textiles theme, a sewing nook and two adjoining rooms focussed on diverse aspects of community service, such as historic fraternities, service clubs, municipal government and Cornwall’s two first permanent hospitals which opened in 1897 and their respective schools of nursing.

Utilities_20191020_121844 loresBelow the house are research areas and additional Museum exhibits, featuring Cornwall’s big three historic industries, the historic Compo/Decca/MCA record plant, historic schools and school swag, the street railway and historic Cornwall merchants.

We are the community Museum and our goal is to exhibit and interpret a broad selection of artifacts representative of the community.


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