Woodbury Historical Society

Rushmore Memorial Library


The Rushmore Library

The Gatehouse

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Town History

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Historical Society

543 Route 32
PO Box 30
Highland Mills, NY 1093

The Gatehouse
224 Smith Clove Rd.
Highland Mills, NY 10930
(next to Falkirk
Golf Course)



Town History

A view from Highland MillsThe Town of Woodbury, which is comprised of the hamlets of Central Valley and Highland Mills; and the area which was formerly known as the hamlet of Woodbury Falls, was officially created on December 19, 1889 by an act of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The first town meeting was held the following year on March 4th with John A. Patterson presiding as Supervisor. The second Supervisor was James Seaman. Eventhough the land is no longer used for farming, the Seaman family property can still be identified by a sign which reads “Sweet Clover Farm” along Route 32 on the northern end of town.

The Town of Woodbury was actually created twice - the first time in 1863 when the Board of Supervisors approved the division of Monroe into the three communities of Monroe, Tuxedo and Woodbury. Objections to this arose and two years later the Legislature was asked to overrule the Board's decision which it did by recreating the old Town of Monroe. In 1889 the Board of Supervisors reinstated the original separation and Woodbury was reborn.

Woodbury had gone through numerous geographic and name changes prior to its incorporation in 1889. Until 1764, the area was part of an enlarged Goshen. In that year, Goshen was divided into two parts with Woodbury becoming part of Cornwall. During the American Revolution, the area was shown on maps as Woodbury Clove. By 1799, Cornwall was also divided with Woodbury joining the present day Monroe and Tuxedo to become the Town of Cheesekook. This name was changed to Smithfield or Southfield and in 1808 became Monroe in honor of the newly elected United States President James Monroe.

No one is quite sure of the derivation of the name “Woodbury.” Some say it may have come from the Dutch word WODE for wood and meaning a dwelling place in the woods. Others claim that the many English families who settled here bestowed the name of a famous English family named Woodbury upon the area. As for the hamlets, Central Valley and Highland Mills were once called Lower Smith's Clove (clove meaning valley). Highland Mills was also known as Orange Post Office, but the residents changed it in 1824 with the present name most likely reflecting the mills, flour and tannery businesses in the area. A map dated about 1790 shows Woodbury Falls as being called Smithfields. It may have later taken its name from the once lovely falls there.

Woodbury Creek

In addition to the flour and grist mills, the area's industry was dominated by a large tourism business as well as a famous fly rod (fishing rod) manufacturing business. Woodbury was the home to both the Payne Rod Company and the Leonard Rod Company.

In today's world, the beauty of the Town of Woodbury, with the Schunnemunk Mountains in the background and the Woodbury Creek meandering through the valley, remains as pleasing to the eye as it did one hundred years ago. However, eventhough Woodbury remains a bedroom community, it can no longer be considered a sleepy, little town. Often known as the “Gateway to Orange County,” Woodbury is located in the southern portion of Orange County, New York at the intersection of Route 6, Route 17, and Exit 16 (Harriman) of the New York State Thruway (Interstate Route 87). The population is approximately 9,000 people. Woodbury borders the Town of Stony Point in Rockland County and property belonging to the United States Military Academy at West Point. The populated portion of West Point is approximately 15 miles east of Woodbury. Bear Mountain State Park is about an equal distance away. Woodbury is approximately 45 miles north of New York City. Many Woodbury residents commute to work in N.Y.C. daily.

The largest employer and tourist attraction in the town is the Woodbury Common Premium Outlet Center located at Exit 16 of the N.Y.S. Thruway. Shoppers come from near and far, including internationally, to shop the approximate 220 upscale stores including Sachs, Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger and Bass.

Mountain Views

On top of the mountain behind Woodbury Common is the beautiful Arden House, a mansion originally built by E.H. Harriman, the railroad tycoon, as a summer home for his family. The Arden House and surrounding property is currently owned by Columbia University and used as a satellite facility for the college. Both the “Arden House” and smaller “Arden Homestead” are also used by many businesses for seminars and multi-day conferences.

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