Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Historic Cornwall Brothers Store

by Susan G Mathis

The Cornwall Brothers Store was placed in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1975 and the New York Register of Historic Places in 1991. The store opened in 1839, burned down in 1865, and rebuilt as a stone building that still stands as Alexandria Bay, NY’s last historic waterfront building. Characters in several of my stories visit the shop that is now a wonderful museum where I will be speaking this Thursday at two.

As a general merchandise shop, Azariah Walton stocked everything from food, fabric, fixtures, dry goods, and more. But they specialized in ash for making soap, timber, and lumber. Though the bay had only three hundred souls in the late 1800s, it soon became an important place of commerce for the area.

When Mr. Walton became his business partner in 1852, a larger store was built on the existing property that included a warehouse and wood-framed store. Freight and passenger ships stopped at its docks as they traveled along the St. Lawrence River, but during the Civil War, the high tax structure almost destroyed their business until Cornwall instituted a sort of barter system to bypass the tax levy.

In 1865, the store burned to the ground and a stone building took its place. It still stands today. A decade later, Cornwall bought Walton’s interest in the store and renamed it Cornwall Brothers Store after his four sons joined the business.

When President Grant visited Pullman Island during his 1872 reelection campaign, the press bragged of the beauty of the Thousand Islands, and the Cornwall Brothers Store prospered with the growth of the area. A decade later, more than a thousand people live year-round in the area and the summer population swelled. By 1888, the store built an addition and added ready-made and custom clothing, fine dress goods, hats and boots and shoes, camp supplies, notions, hardware, and crockery along with their usual groceries, island supplies, and the like.

By the early 1900s, the store was the center of village life, but by the Great Depression, business faltered and the store became the U.S. Customs Station and Post Office, later being abandoned. Then, in 1973, the Alexandria Township Historical Society was created to preserve, restore, and use the historical building as a museum. It’s the last remaining waterfront building of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age and appears in several of my stories including Katelyn’s Choice, Sara’s Surprise, Reagan’s Reward, and Colleen’s Confession.

Do you enjoy visiting historical museums? Tell me more. Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on August 19th for my next post.

About Peyton’s Promise

book 3 of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series

Summer 1902

Peyton Quinn is tasked with preparing the grand Calumet Castle ballroom for a spectacular two-hundred-guest summer gala. As she works in a male-dominated position of upholsterer and fights for women’s equality, she’s persecuted for her unorthodox ways. But when her pyrotechnics-engineer father is seriously hurt, she takes over the plans for the fireworks display despite being socially ostracized.

Patrick Taylor, Calumet’s carpenter and Peyton’s childhood chum, hopes to win her heart, but her unconventional undertakings cause a rift. Peyton has to ignore the prejudices and persevere or she could lose her job, forfeit Patrick’s love and respect, and forever become the talk of local gossips.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, is her newest. Rachel’s Reunion releases October 7. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and Reagan’s Reward, are also award winners.

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling the world. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.


  1. Thanks for posting. I'd love to visit the area one day.

  2. Museums are my favorite kind of pass time. There are many interesting one sin Illinois and when we travel we plot our route so we can visit interesting places like this. Thanks for sharing.