My parents live in a retirement community in Cornwall, Pennsylvania, a former mining town in Lebanon County. The iron furnace was the main economic driver for hundreds of years. The homes in the miner’s villages are made of thick cut stone, and the rail trail that runs through the community passes piles of rocks dotted with ferns. I have fallen in love with the place along with its neighboring town of Mount Gretna, a religious and arts community that I will write about on another day.
Having grown up in the farming flatlands of southeastern Pennsylvania, less than an hour south of Cornwall, the rugged landscape and architecture are always a surprise. I walk every day when I am visiting, exploring two routes through the community.
The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail runs right behind my parents’ townhouse. It is so easy to access that I haven’t explored any other sections but would like to this fall. It is well maintained and gets lots of use.
Wildflower Lane runs from their neighborhood to the main campus. My parents’ next door neighbors have adopted the trail and done lots of plantings in the past year, carefully marking the various flowers. The lane takes a left turn towards campus passing a platform that looks out over wetlands. The last time I was there flocks of birds–cardinals, catbirds, red winged blackbirds–soared over the grasses and among the trees. There are benches, and it is a peaceful spot to sit.
From there you head up onto the main campus, past the lovely old greenhouse, the chapel and towards the main buildings including the ironmaster’s home called the Buckingham Mansion. There is a small round building that serves as a meditation room and the Paymaster’s Building that is used for an art studio.
If you stay straight at the fork, you head into a wilderness area that parallels the road. Eventually, you can turn left into the meadow area. It is part of the manor and has birdhouses, benches, and a lovely bridge over the stream. I snapped the picture below one morning during this past visit. The beams of sun reminded me of an old hymn.
Cornwall Manor has religious roots as does Mount Gretna, and I have a general sense of peace when I am there. I attend the local church–an historic stone building of which I don’t seem to have a picture (it’s on the list for the next trip this fall)–when I am there and its solid presence speaks to something deep in the soul that goes beyond orthodoxy and evangelism.
I compiled a few photos from this trip and others to give you a taste of Cornwall, Pennsylvania, one of my favorite places.