Town of Highlands
The Town of Highlands, chartered December 3, 1872, consists of the northeastern area of Bear Mountain and all of Fort Montgomery and Highland Falls. The Town and surrounding vicinities are rich in history and legend. Although, occupied and visited by several Indian tribes, the area history begins in 1609 when Henry Hudson sailed up the North River in his gallant ship the Half Moon. The Hudson River, now a Historic Heritage River was once called the “River That Flows Two Ways” as it is a tidal estuary.
In 1872, the Town of Highlands was formed, separating from the Town of Cornwall, located further north over Storm King Mountain. Winding ones’ way over these mountains to conduct local government business or sailing up river was just not convenient of feasible for a growing community. The Town now consists of the Hamlet of Fort Montgomery, the Village of Highland Falls and certain portions of West Point and Bear Mountain. The Town of Highland Falls has a supervisor, town board, town police force and other working departments.
The Hamlet of Fort Montgomery is only a short distance from the Village of Highland Falls and features motels, restaurants, historic churches, specialty auto shops and a library. Most notable is the historic Fort Montgomery battle site, which dates back to the American Revolution. This bloody battle between the British and Americans led to the eventual defeat of the British plan to take over the Hudson Valley. Census records indicate the population for Fort Montgomery is approximately 1,500.
The village of Highland Falls, once named “Buttermilk Falls,” was created from the town of Cornwall and officially incorporated in 1906 and has a separate governmental body than the Town with its own mayor, board, police force along with other working departments. In the past, the village had several large hotels that were visited by many notable figures, including President Abraham Lincoln and President Ulysses S. Grant. Two famous hotels (Cozzen’s and Cranston’s) and later, a college (Ladycliff) stood on the site of the present-day Pershing Center, USMA.
The Village is considered the “Historic Gateway to West Point” and offers full services to the public, including schools, a supermarket, stores, restaurants, banks, motels, doctors, churches, a fire department, library and an ambulance corps. A visitor will find turn-of-the century churches and buildings, quaint shops. Our library and Historical Society on Main Street offer much more material of historic interest and displays and pictures unique to this “Hometown U.S.A. Community.” Census records indicate the population to be approximately 4,000.
West Point and theUnited States Military Academy (USMA)
West Point’s role in our nation’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko to design the fortifications for West Point in l778, and Washington himself transferred his headquarters to West Point in l779. Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and fashioned an iron chain across the Hudson to prevent the British from separating the colonies. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, and remains the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.
Several soldiers and legislators, including Washington, Knox, Hamilton and John Adams, desiring to eliminate America’s wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare. President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the Academy would be representative of a democratic society.
Sylvanus Thayer, the “Father of the Military Academy,” served as Superintendent from l8l7-l833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Aware of our young nation’s need for engineers, Thayer made engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half of the nineteenth century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation’s infrastructure. In the late part of the nineteenth century, West Point graduates filled political, economic and cultural posts throughout America.
The geographic location of West Point was the center stage for the development of the Hudson River School of Art in the 1830-40’s and represents America’s first, homegrown, coherent and sizable group of landscape artists. As a major tourist destination since the mid-nineteenth century, West Point continues to attract over 5 million visitors annually.
The United States Corps of Cadets (USCC) is over 4000 strong and continues to supply the U.S. Army with leaders of character. In concert with the increasing role of minorities and women in society, greater numbers of minorities and women have entered and graduated from the Military Academy. Their presence has enhanced the quality and maintained the traditional representativeness of the institution.
Academy graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving a minimum of five years on active duty. The Academy, with its long and noble history, remains an energetic, vibrant institution that attracts some of the best and brightest young men and women. It offers a challenging and comprehensive array of opportunities while retaining its enduring commitment to Duty, Honor, Country.