Cornish Windsor Bridge - Reflection. Photo by Laurie St-Sauveur Wallace

The town of Cornish in northwest Sullivan County was once the home of one of America’s foremost sculptors: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) and the well-known Cornish Art Colony (existing between 1885 and 1930). Visitors can go to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, which preserves the sculptor’s home, gardens, and studios. Cornish’s rich historical heritage is embellished by natural attractions, with views across the Connecticut River. Cornish is also home to four covered bridges on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, the longest wooden covered bridge in the United States and the longest two-span covered bridge in the world.

The following article was written by Isabel Marsigli on March 28th, 2024.

Sugar River Region Community Highlight: Cornish, NH – History, Culture, and Natural Beauty In One Town

Welcome to the town of Cornish, a charming community in the Sugar River Region – the heart of western New Hampshire’s rolling landscape, where history, culture, and natural beauty converge to create a truly unique community experience!

Welcome to Town of Cornish Sign. Image Credit: Sharon Callum.

The Town of Cornish was established in 1763, and was named for Sir Samuel Cornish, a British Royal Navy vice-admiral. From the iconic Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park, showcasing the works of renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to the picturesque Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, the longest historic covered bridge in the United States (which still carries daily automobile traffic!), the town’s rich architectural heritage is on full display. There even used to be a Cornish Colony Museum that had insight into the town’s vibrant artistic community and its impact on American art and culture. There’s truly a treasure trove of historic buildings in the town center and beyond, each telling a unique story. 

View Near Cornish-Windsor Bridge in Cornish. Image Credit: Madeline Ferland.

Living in Cornish Today: Demographics and Housing

Since Cornish is located in the southern part of the state, it has a mild climate that is easy to acclimate to. Cornish summers are generally warm and fairly humid, with temperatures ranging between higher 70s and low 80s (Fahrenheit). Temperatures plummet in the winter, usually reaching the teens or single digits, making for great snow. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the seasons, making for a pleasant climate.

The following is a quick snapshot of statistics about Cornish to provide further insight for those interested in the area. For example, as of the 2022 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, English, French, German, Irish and Italian make up the large majority of its residents’ ancestry.

Median Age 54.3
# of Households 762
# of Housing Units 761
Employment Rate 62.5%
Median Household Income (Annual) $86,779
Per Capita Income $45,807
% Population Below Poverty Line 5.3%
Median Gross Rent $1,525/mo

Cornish Town Profile, United States Census Bureau

The Cornish Arts and Historic Scene

Formerly well-known as the “Cornish Colony”, this small town has long served as a sanctuary for creative people looking for inspiration in the peace-filled surroundings. This colony very quickly grew to know a variety of artists, including painters, sculptors, poets, actors, and many others. It is discussed that the environment truly cultivated this art, which, in turn, led to conversation and socialization, thus developing the area. Today, the legacy of this colony lives on through the tours of the galleries and studios that preserve the town’s artistic heritage, and the homage to Maxfield Parrish that formerly called the Cornish Art Colony Historic District home. 

Statue in Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park. Image Credit: National Park Service.

Winston Churchill (though not the former prime minister of the UK, they just happened to share a name!) was a best-selling novelist who also called the Cornish Colony home for a time in the early 20th century. His Cornish mansion was named Harlakenden House. In 1913, he leased the mansion to the then-newly-elected president Woodrow Wilson, who used it as his summer residence during his service. Churchill served in the New Hampshire state legislature in 1903 and 1905.

Connecting with Nature: Outdoor Adventures in Cornish

There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy throughout the year in and around Cornish. Put on your hiking boots and experience Mount Ascutney State Park’s picturesque paths. The peak of the park offers breath-taking vistas of the Connecticut River Valley. If you enjoy fishing, cast a line into one of the many clear streams or lakes scattered around the area, or paddle along the serene Connecticut River. There are myriad snow activities throughout the winter, such as visiting a local ski area, going snowmobiling on the various trails, or going cross-country or snowshoeing through the snow-covered woodlands.  

Blacksmith Covered Bridge Hidden in the Trees. Image Credit: Madeline Ferland.

You should be sure to visit a few other iconic Historic Covered Bridges in the area, such as the Blow-Me-Down Covered Bridge, the Blacksmith Covered Bridge, and the Dingleton Hill Covered Bridge. For accommodations nestled amidst nature’s embrace, options like the Chase House Inn and the Running Bear Campground in nearby Windsor, VT, provide lovely scenery and rustic tranquility. If you’re looking for a taste of old-world charm, the Fitch Family Farm offers seasonal horse-drawn carriage rides and sleigh rides! 

Cornish Events and Festivals

The hospitality cultural vibrancy of Cornish’s tight-knit community is always evident through its calendar of events and festivals. You’ll find that whatever the season, a warm welcome and a sense of community define the spirit of Cornish. Two of the most well-known annual events in this town are the Cornish Fair and the Summer Concert Series at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park. 

The Cornish Fair, established in 1950, has become a cherished tradition for not only Cornish residents, but for communities all around. This family-friendly event offers entertainment, education, and agricultural experiences that draw visitors from far and wide. From local food vendors and artisanal goods, to exhibits showcasing the finest fruits and vegetables, to thrilling horse and oxen pulling competitions, the fair is a celebration of rural life and community spirit. Guests can explore 4-H displays, engage in crafts, and delight in a variety of children’s activities. There are also thrilling amusement rides and live music to enjoy. The Cornish Fair is also home to the largest dairy show in all of New Hampshire, remaining committed to promoting agriculture education and sustainability. It never fails to be a jam-packed weekend of fun, learning, and wholesome entertainment! at the Cornish Fair!

The Summer Concert Series hosted by Saint-Gaudens is an annual summer event series that’s been happening since 1946 and features a diverse range of musical performances set against the picturesque backdrop of the park. The concerts typically span various genres such as classical, jazz, folk, and contemporary music, showcasing both local talents and renowned artists. Audiences have the opportunity to enjoy live music in the serene outdoor environment of the park, surrounded by the stunning sculptures and landscapes created by renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The Summer Concert Series aims to provide cultural enrichment and community engagement while celebrating the arts in a historic and natural setting. 

Summer Concert Series on Saint Gaudens Grounds. Image Credit: Saint Gaudens National Historic Park.

As you explore the trails and cultural landmarks of Cornish, you will soon discover the big experiences that this small town has to offer for those who are willing to explore. Whether you’re drawn to the rich history, the incredible arts, or the amazing natural landscapes, this community has something to offer everyone! What are your favorite historic sites in Cornish? Let us know in the comments on Facebook or Instagram, or post your own Cornish site and tag us!