|No other person is more important to the history and trajectory of Hale Farm & Village than Siegfried Buerling. His leadership contributed to Hale’s success and popularity during its first decade of operations, so much so that he convinced leadership to create a master plan to expand the farm museum into an expansive outdoor living history experience. During the 1960s, Siegfried and his colleagues visited places like the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Michigan, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. They studied New England and old Western Reserve towns and villages and conducted extensive research in the WRHS Archives toward a vision for a 19th century Western Reserve village at Hale Farm.
To create the village, Siegfried established a ‘Preservation through Relocation Program’ that saved certain 19th century Western Reserve buildings threatened by development. These buildings, including the Mary Ann Sears Swetland Memorial Meetinghouse, Goldsmith House, Ephraim Brown Land Office, Benjamin Franklin Wade Law Office, Saltbox House, Jagger House, Jonathan E. Herrick House and others were relocated to Hale Farm and restored to their original beauty and charm around a recreated village green. Siegfried was responsible for identifying and restoring more than half of the museum’s historic structures, the foundation for the Hale Farm & Village experience today. This vision would come to define the experience and put Hale Farm & Village on the map as one of the finest outdoor living history museums in the United States.
During his long tenure, Siegfried worked tirelessly and masterfully with philanthropic, business and community leaders, chief among them the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR), which he founded, to further develop The Hale Farm into an expansive outdoor living history museum with 34 historic structures, an agriculture and horticulture program, a calendar of popular programs and special events, and establish the museum as a destination for unique, high quality curriculum-based school programming that continues today.
As a skilled cabinetmaker, Siegfried had a special interest in early American crafts and industry, and as a result developed a series of working craft shops and demonstrations at Hale Farm & Village including blacksmithing, glass blowing, pottery, basket, broom and candle making, and spinning and weaving. Once again, thanks to Siegfried’s vision and entrepreneurial mindset, Hale Farm’s renowned Craft and Trade Program started in the 1960s stands as the finest of its kind in the Midwest and the inspiration for WRHS’s Youth Entrepreneurship Education Program for schoolchildren.
As Director of Properties, Siegfried led WRHS’s work to restore and build experiences at its properties – Shandy Hall in Geneva, Loghurst in Canfield, the Holsey Gates House in Bedford, and the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor that was operated by WRHS until 2008.
Siegfried’s commitment to WRHS continued long after his retirement. In the 1990s, he managed the restoration of Euclid Beach Park Carousel horses (the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel was restored to operating condition at the Cleveland History Center in 2014). In 2006, WRHS again engaged him as a Preservation Consultant and Project Manager of Hale’s major, multi-year preservation project to restore and stabilize the site’s collection of historic structures, and this work continues today.
For Siegfried, Hale Farm & Village was a labor of love and his life’s work. The Buerling family – Siegfried, his late wife Heidi, and his sons Bruce (deceased), Peter and Curt Buerling lived at Hale Farm. In 2008, to celebrate Hale Farm’s 50th anniversary as a museum, Siegfried was the first person to receive the Hale Farm & Village Legacy Award, and WRHS created a fund at the Akron Community Foundation in his name.
Friends, it is not possible to recount or begin to adequately describe Siegfried’s impact on Hale Farm & Village and WRHS in a single communication. To know Siegfried was to love and respect him and recently, I had the privilege of visiting with him, his son Curt Buerling, and Hale Farm & Village Director, Travis Henline. During this special visit, we made plans to host a holiday party with Siegfried, his family and close friends and decided after to celebrate Siegfried’s 90th birthday on January 29, 2022 at Hale. I am ever grateful to Curt for giving us the opportunity to visit with Siegfried, to reminisce and express to him how important he is to Hale Farm, to WRHS, and to so many of us personally.
On behalf of WRHS, I offer our sincerest condolences to Siegfried’s family and friends and pledge to continue his work to preserve and safeguard Hale Farm & Village and his story for the benefit and enrichment of generations to come.
Thank you, Siegfried.