RIVER LIGHTHOUSE

Program
NYS Historic
Subject
Site
Location
395 Hudson Street, Cornwall, NY
Lat/Long
41.442099, -74.0261882
Grant Recipient
Cornwall Lions
Historic Marker

RIVER LIGHTHOUSE

Inscription

RIVER LIGHTHOUSE
CAMP FOR THE BLIND
STOOD HERE. ESTABLISHED 1911
WHEN EMMA HARDY DONATED
HER HOME TO THE NEW YORK
ASSOCIATION FOR THE BLIND.
WILLIAM G. POMEROY FOUNDATION 2018

The River Lighthouse Camp was a summer program for the blind established in 1911 after the donation of Emma Hardy’s home to the New York Association for the Blind. Helen Keller served as Vice President of the camp and Samuel Clemens was on the advisory board. The success of this summer program led to expansion and the launch of Camp Munger in Bear Mountain, NY in 1923.

Founded in 1905 by Winifred and Edith Holt, according to organizational history files, the Lighthouse quickly became a pioneer in the field of vision rehabilitation. In 1906, the Lighthouse was officially incorporated as The New York Association for the Blind, Inc. A home teaching program of counseling and instruction developed, marking the organization’s first community-based direct service–the forerunner of today’s professional vision rehabilitation services.

In an article in the Helen Keller Archives from “Scrap Book of Helen Keller and the Blind, Book V” created by Rebecca Mack, February 1918, the generous gift of Mrs. Emma L. Hardy is described as a “fine old home and eight acres of land, [where] blind children learn about the country.” The summer program hosted blind children from the city to Cornwall on the Hudson for a period of ten or more days, many of them experiencing nature for the first time on this “vacation playground for the sightless.” The article also observes and marvels over how children learn in the immersive program: “It is interesting to watch the expression on the face of a little girl when for the first time she passes her sensitive fingers over the feathered body of a chicken. The speed with which children learn what country things mean is remarkable: at the end of a few days they know how to use a rake.”

A letter dated July 17, 1962 from Allan W. Sherman, Executive Director, The Lighthouse, NYC to Helen Keller, Westport, CT, also from the Helen Keller Archives, invites Miss Keller to the 50th anniversary of the founding of River Lighthouse, described as “one of the first summer vacation homes in this country planned especially for blind people.” The letter adds that since the camp’s establishment, “a total of 4,500 visually-handicapped men and women had enjoyed the hospitality of this summer vacation retreat in the pleasant rural surroundings of Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York.” Mr. Sherman also refers to Keller’s “long personal interest in [the organization’s] progress.”

Since its 1912 establishment by Daisy Fiske Rogers, co-founder, Lighthouse Number One, the first of several Lighthouse camps for visually impaired children, the success of the summer program led to expansion and the launch of Camp Munger in Bear Mountain, NY in 1923.

In 2000, the Cornwall Public Library opened on the site of the razed house. The remaining acreage became a town park named Riverlight Park in honor of the property’s history.