Understanding the past

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:30

The Ida Cornell Memorial Library represents her family’s commitment to culture and education in Woodbury Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the history of the Woodbury Public Library. The stories are based on information provided by Dorothy Morris. WOODBURY - The Woodbury Public Library was created by the merging of the former Highland Mills and Central Valley libraries. Like many public institutions, its history offers library patrons an opportunity to understand the past as library operations, programs and services continue to grow and change. Last week, The Photo News carried the story behind the Highland Mills branch of the Woodbury Public Library. What follows is the history of the Central Valley branch: The Ida Cornell Memorial Library. Nestled among a stand of pines and adjacent to the Smith Clove Elementary School campus on Smith Clove Road is a small contemporary building known as the Ida Cornell Memorial Library, a branch of the Woodbury Public Library. But who was Ida Cornell and why was this branch named after her? The answer begins with a small piece of property at the corner of Route 32 and Gregory Lane in Central Valley. During the Revolutionary War, there was an encampment of patriot soldiers whose mission was to guard the “Albany Post Road” so that troops could have safe passage to move the iron for the chain across the Hudson and prevent any infiltration by the British. The first president of Cuba Some years later, the white center hall colonial house was built and eventually became the Cornell family homestead. The family operated a school and was a great proponent of the theater. Historians said they brought much culture to Central Valley. Their home was the seat of educational excellence and innovation, a trait passed on through all the generations of the Cornell family. They distinguished themselves as the host family for the Tomas Estrada Palma family, who came to Woodbury so that Estrada Palma could regain his health following seven years in a Spanish prison for fighting for freedom in Cuba. The ‘opera house’ in Institute Hall Ida Cornell, daughter of David and Serena Cornell, was born in 1886. She was raised in an academic environment, in a family which respected education, many of whose members were lawyers, with private libraries featuring an array of collections, and who enjoyed the cultural advantages of the day. Cornell worked in the Central Valley Bank, on Route 32, which had been founded by a Cornell relative. Over the years, her family continued to make contributions to the community. They supported the “opera house,” in Institute Hall, located at the corner of Route 32 and Estrada Road. The meeting room in town hall is known as the Cornell Room. The family of Katherine Cornell Stainton donated the property where the community pond is located. Until the late 1960s, there was no library building in Central Valley. As a tribute to Ida Cornell, the family built the contemporary building. For over 40 years, it has served the community. Through the years, the Cornells have contributed to the library. Most recently, memorabilia belonging to Ida Cornell was donated from the new owner of Cornell’s home. Director Jennifer Bradshaw described the items donated “as representative of the talents and culture which defined her life” and is designing a permanent display area for the Ida Cornell Library for the public.