North of Cornwall Center, two neighborhoods—one old, one modern—sit side-by-side on the edge of rolling Lebanon farmlands.
These two towns, North Cornwall and Karinchville, share space and residents. To the uninitiated, the distinction between them is fuzzy. Further complicating things is the fact that both lie near the township designated North Cornwall, while actually existing within Cornwall Borough.
So what exactly constitutes North Cornwall and Karinchville as neighborhoods?
Old North Cornwall
North Cornwall, the neighborhood, is the older of the two. Much like the sturdily-built stone homes in the Burd-Coleman and Miner’s Village towns, North Cornwall was constructed to house workers for the extensive iron operations of Cornwall’s industrial heyday; specifically, workers at the nearby blast furnace. The furnace and much of the surrounding land was owned by William C. Freeman, Cornwall millionaire.
The buildings along Stone Row (between Race Street and Maple Lane) are limestone constructions of the early 1870’s, and as with other homes in the area, they were meant to accommodate two workers’ families per house.
To manage the blast furnace, a number of managerial and operations buildings were constructed, many of which are now private residences. Of these, the most imposing is the furnace manager’s mansion, initially the home of Henry C. Grittinger (who would later be the founding president of the Lebanon County Historical Society). As with Stone Row, this home is another limestone creation. Near these buildings stand the furnace office and springhouse, both of which are now used for more than their original purposes (management and water cleaning).
The area also includes the Fairview Grammar School and the Gristmiller’s Home, the former built in 1880 and the latter in 1809. The Gristmiller’s Home is a private residence, and one of the oldest structures in the immediate area (sadly, the accompanying mill caught fire in the late 1800s).
Karinchville, in contrast to its considerably older neighbor to the southwest, was developed in the late 1940’s and 1950’s by future Cornwall mayor Matthew Karinch. Karinch, also known by the nickname “Tip,” was the driving force behind the construction of the eponymous neighborhood that bears his name.
The development took off in part due to the post-war baby boom – the older Cornwall towns were not explicitly built for a significant population increase, and so Karinchville served as a convenient new ‘burb for budding families looking to live in the area. Not all of the residents came following the war, however. Some of the first families moved into what would become Karinchville in the early 1940’s, and prior to that, several engineers from the furnace lived in the area.
Interestingly, Karinch’s passion for the sport of baseball seems to have fueled the development. In an early 1980’s interview with Karinch by historian Carl Oblinger, Karinch claims to have “started [Karinchville] so that my players would have some housing.” In the 1930’s, Karinch was attached to the local Cornwall Athletic Association, which at one point even had uniforms (supplied by Karinch) bearing the name of the Blue Bird Inn.
Note the baseball diamond just north of the Inn in the above 1956 photograph. The Association moved its games to the field from the village of Anthracite.
The Blue Bird Inn, which predates the stone homes of North Cornwall by a decade or so (having been built in 1859), contains enough history for an article of its own. As an actual inn, it was first named Ye Olde Golden Key Hotel, which was the first of several names for the establishment. It was a convenient stopping point alongside the Cornwall Pike (now Cornwall Road). The Pike was a wooden-plank toll road traveled by farmers and workers.
Karinch bought what had recently been known as a ‘tea room’ in the 1930’s, ‘tea’ being a rather brazen codeword for outlawed alcohol. He owned the establishment until 1996, two years before his death at the age of 88.
Even now, the two villages are closely intertwined. Karinchville was built partially on slag from the blast furnace, and as the town added houses and streets, the old homes of North Cornwall were joined by new ones, along with new faces and families.
[Clarification: an earlier version of this article stated that both towns were within the North Cornwall Township. Both are actually within Cornwall Borough.]
Much thanks to the Cornwall Iron Furnace and the Lebanon County Historical Society for help in the detailing of this article.