Real Estate

The Greenest Town in Connecticut

By Published On: March 27th, 2024

The hilly, rocky rural Town of Cornwall and its five Cornwallian hamlets – Cornwall Bridge, Cornwall, West Cornwall, East Cornwall and Cornwall Hollow – are described as quirky, different, bohemian, artistic, intellectual, remote, private, and outdoorsy.  East of Kent and Sharon in Litchfield County, Cornwall is lightly populated with only 1,379* residents spread out over 46 square miles.

In 2016, the Town of Cornwall was proclaimed the greenest town in Connecticut, which itself is among the ten greenest states based on environmental quality, eco-friendly behavior, climate change mitigation, water quality, and low energy consumption according to research conducted by Movato, a digital real estate player. The study determined that the Town of Cornwall is the greenest in Connecticut based on people per square mile, pounds of trash per person, recycling, and residential energy efficiency programs. The study failed to mention that 26% of the town is covered by state forests and another 20% to 25% protected from development by conservation easements according to Gordon Ridgway, long-time Cornwall first selectman.

What makes Cornwall Cornwall

Cornwall’s character is also distinctive. It’s a place where families dating back to the 1700s like the Dibbles and the Popples mix easily with generations of second-home owners and newcomers. Residents value community involvement in parades and events like the Cornwall Women’s Society rummage sale, farmers markets, the volunteer fire department, and the many town committees addressing local issues from solar panels and affordable housing to economic development. The informative, colorful town website pulls everything together and lists artists and local businesses. 

Education is important in Cornwall, which has a higher percentage of residents with graduate degrees than Kent, Sharon, or Salisbury.* Everyone is proud of the small Cornwall Consolidated School from K to 8th grade, which sends most of its graduates on to Housatonic Valley High School.  

Cornwall is also an outdoorsy town with swimming at the town beach at Cream Lake; hiking, fishing, and rafting in the Housatonic River; and skiing at Mohawk Mountain.

Housing in Cornwall

Like the terrain, Cornwall has a very up and down real estate market for many reasons. First there just aren’t that many houses to sell in Cornwall. There are only 1,000 housing units in the entire town compared to 2,600 in Salisbury.* On a twelve-month rolling basis, the number of Cornwall home sales is, not surprisingly, one third of Salisbury’s average monthly sales. 

Another reason for the low number of sales is the infrequent turnover of properties. In the last five years in Cornwall there were 124 sales of residential homes, but during the same period only seven properties were resold. Four of these resold homes fetched more than a million dollars while three were under a half million. The most expensive resale was 40 Cobble Hill Road with 187 acres, which was purchased in February of 2022 for $4,650,000 and resold two years later for $6,250,000. 

Also contributing to the range of sale prices is the presence of large estates, and even a castle, as well as affordably priced homes. Ivan Lendl’s real estate sales and purchases alone account for high average prices in Cornwall. In February 2024, after years on the market, his 18,000-square-foot estate with 446 acres was sold for $12,000,000 – the highest price for a residential property in Litchfield County. 

Elyse Harney Morris of Elyse Harney Realty, the agent responsible for the sale, told The Lakeville Journal, “I am still pinching myself. Very rarely do you see this much acreage in Litchfield County, although you could go over the border to New York and see it all day long. That’s what creates the privacy and the ability to say that you have that much acreage. That is a big deal.”  

Cornwall has had its share of celebrity buyers from Michel J. Fox to Whoopi Goldberg and rumors are swirling that Ryan Reynolds was the purchaser of Lendl’s estate. Since Cornwall is about privacy, no one actually knows. 

Cornwall’s high-end home prices are driven by privacy, acreage, and views. Diane Bisselle, a top agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Real Estate, commented that Cornwall’s views rival those in the Adirondacks and Maine. One long-term resident who purchased a home up a long, gravel driveway explained the town’s continuing allure, “We looked at over 40 houses in Connecticut. I kept saying I wanted a view, and then I found it on top of Warren Hill with 52 acres. Finally.” 

Cornwall sales patterns

Since 2003 Cornwall has generally seen median prices below its NW corner neighboring towns of Salisbury, Kent, and Sharon with peaks far above theirs in April 2003 of $629,000, and $850,000 in December 2008 on a rolling twelve-month calculation. On the same basis Cornwall hit the lowest median price (of $190,000) of any of the four towns in the last twenty years in December 2015. This pattern changed with COVID when Cornwall median prices rose above Sharon and Kent. Median prices are now readjusting in Cornwall and currently at $514,000. 

In the last five years, 47% of Cornwall homes sold for less than $500,000. It is a town where you can find a moderately priced home or a castle. Full-time residents enjoy the community life, year-round recreation, excellent schools, and affordable property taxes while second home owners, even movie stars, cherish the views and the privacy.

On the market now

As spring selling season approaches, only five houses are for sale in Cornwall, all above $700,000. Three properties are in the process of closing, and all of those have list prices over $900,000. 

With warmer weather will less expensive properties become available for eager buyers interested in the life that Cornwall offers? •

*Cornwall demographic information sourced from 2023 State of Connecticut Town Profile. All residential sales information is on a 12-month rolling average from Infosparks database on the Connecticut Multiple Listing service.

Christine Bates is a registered real-estate agent in New York and Connecticut with William Pitt Sotheby’s. She has written about real estate and business since Main Street Magazine’s first issue in 2013.