The Western Reserve Historical Society is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017
Stop and think about that for a moment. For 150 years, WRHS has preserved the rich history of Northeast Ohio by capturing and sharing countless captivating stories of the region and America. And it all started very humbly on Cleveland’s Public Square.
On May 28, 1867 Charles Baldwin and a small group from the Cleveland Library Association established a new historical department with a mission to discover, procure, and preserve whatever relates to the history of Cleveland and the Western Reserve.
It was Baldwin’s vision to create a new cultural society. And in the beginning, WRHS’ first headquarters was on the third floor of the Society for Savings Building on Public Square. For 25 years, WRHS had no charter but was dedicated to collecting historical articles and artifacts, as well as publishing historical papers.
Today, WRHS has become one of the largest and most diversified historical societies in the United States with six sites in four counties and more than 1 million items in its Library and Museum Collection.
The story of WRHS’ expansion dates back to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article in 1889 that noted how the Society was receiving visitors from abroad and teachers with their students. Due to this interest, WRHS quickly expanded its space and changed locations to accommodate its growing collection. Then in 1938, the widow of Price McKinney sold her home—the Hay-McKinney Mansion—to the growing historical society to house museum collections. WRHS soon acquired in 1938 the Bingham-Hanna Mansion in exchange for its property on Euclid and 107th. It didn’t take long for the Society to further grow its museum space.
- In 1948 Laurence and Robert Norton and their sister Mrs. Fred R. White donated Shandy Hall, an 1815 farmstead in Geneva, to WRHS.
- In 1956 Clara Belle Ritchie bequeathed the Hale Family Farm to the historical society upon her passing that year.
- In 1965 WRHS opened the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum following the donation of Fredrick Crawford’s Thompson Auto Album.
- In 1978 Josephine Kyle gave WRHS the historic house museum of Loghurst in Canfield.
- In 1984 a library housing all of the society’s archives, manuscripts, books, and photograph collections was opened, and the former library was converted to display the costume and textile collection in the Chisholm Halle Costume Wing.
- By 1993, the Research Library was connected to the rest of the museum with the construction of the Reinberger Gallery, home to the upcoming exhibit opening in November of 2017 – Cleveland Starts Here presented by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation.
Expanding Hale Farm and Village
As many of you know, Hale Farm and Village has been at the forefront of Northeast Ohio and American history education since its public opening in 1958. At that time, Hale Farm had the 1825 Hale House and six original outbuildings.
Early American craft and trade demonstrations were added in the 1960s. With those demonstrations, it didn’t take long for the museum to become so popular that WRHS created a master plan to expand the operation. This master plan included acquiring other pre-Civil War era historical buildings and moving them to Hale Farm to create an early Western Reserve village.
So in the early 1960s, excavation of the Village Green began. The Saltbox House and the Jagger House were among the first buildings relocated and placed in the Village.
Many of these buildings were given to WRHS, which established these criteria for the creation of the Village:
- The Village was to reflect typical villages and town centers in the Western Reserve.
- Buildings were to come from within the Western Reserve boundaries.
- No building was to be moved if it could be saved on its original site.
- All buildings were either to have been built before 1850 or stylistically fit into that period.
- The buildings were to represent a variety of architectural styles and lifestyles.
Today, Hale Farm & Village sits on 100 acres with 34 historic structures and an array of guest facilities. Hale Farm at its core is a living history museum and must-see for school field trips. But it also serves as a scenic venue for weddings and community events throughout the year.
In 2018, Hale Farm & Village will celebrate its 60th anniversary as a living history museum that retells the stories of early Ohioans, as well preserves and teaches crafts, trades, farming, and gardening for the community it serves.