The Western Reserve Historical Society is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017

WRHS Building
WRHS first home, the third floor of the Society for Savings building located in Public Square.

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.

Growing focus

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.

Rendering of Crawford
Rendering of the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.
  • 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.
HFV Saltbox
The Saltbox House being transported to its new home at Hale Farm.

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.noref_image

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.

Preserving Hale Farm & Village for the Future

Preserving for the Future

Joe TokarskyHale Farm & Village is like a second home for employee Joe Tokarsky. Like most homeowners, Joe notices and addresses things most guests to the Village probably don’t see, such as windows in need of glazing, old rails, or walls needing fresh paint.

Joe is Hale Farm’s new maintenance and preservation lead, the point guy responsible for keeping all the historical buildings in good condition. He joined Hale Farm & Village in June and already has been making an impact with various maintenance projects.

And believe it or not, much of the maintenance and preservation needed at Hale Farm involves small repairs to some of the hundreds of windows located throughout the museum’s property.

“My most recent project was building a bottom rail and the interior grid for one of the large 4’ x 10’ sash windows in our Meeting House,” Joe said.  “This repair was done without removing the window in order to limit the amount of possible damage to the window and its frame.”

In some buildings, Joe did have to remove window sashes and put up either plywood or Plexiglas as temporary windows. He does the repairs to the windows himself on-site.

Joe’s restoration work isn’t limited to window repair or painting. He recently called in a professional contractor to re-point the mortar joints on the Herrick House’s exterior sandstone block. Prior the Harvest Festival in October, Joe was the one Hale Farm relied on to make quick repairs on the apple cider press.

In preparing for winter, Joe and his team of three have kept busy painting, removing leaves from gutters, and sealing up any holes to prevent critters from moving into the buildings.

The challenging part of the job is not so much the work itself but doing it while guests come to visit Hale Farm & Village without any interruptions to their experience.

“It’s like a puzzle, getting (maintenance and preservation work) done with minimum interference to operations,” Joe said, noting that it can be a fun challenge, too.

Teaching historical preservation

Hale Preserving for the FutureFarm & Village is obviously known for being an educational museum that teaches history by demonstration.

In keeping with that tradition, one of Joe’s goals is to bring in more college students to work on the maintenance and preservation of Hale Farm, either as an internship or a capstone project for graduation. That way, Hale Farm can benefit from fresh ideas, and the students can get experience in restoring history.

Joe himself graduated from Belmont College this past May with a degree in building preservation and restoration. Prior to that, he grew up in a family that ran a furniture repair and refinishing business and developed his woodworking skills by helping out there.

Joe is starting to pitch Hale Farm as an internship opportunity to his Alma mater and other local colleges that offer programs in building preservation. He would like to teach students not only how to repair a historical building but also how to continue to make Hale Farm a great experience for all visitors.

Another one of Joe’s goals for recruiting college students for trades-based projects “is that their work will add to the continuing historical journey and archives of Hale Farm and Village,” he said.

Top 10 Reasons to Come to Hale Farm’s Harvest Festival

Top 10 Reasons to Come to Hale Farm’s Harvest Festival

Autumn is here and for many of us Ohioans, it’s our favorite season because of the spectacular colors, the cooler temperatures, and the aromas and tastes of harvest season.

And once again, Hale Farm & Village will host its annual Harvest Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 1, 2, 8, and 9 to give all of us a Pumpkin Painting at Hale Harvest Festivalreason to get outside and celebrate the season. In fact, here’s at least 10 reasons to come to Hale Farm’s Harvest Festival, rain or shine:

  1. Affordable admission. The cost of the Harvest Festival is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-12 and free for WRHS members and youth 2yrs and under. So the Harvest Festival is a very affordable family outing that will be loaded with all kinds of fun activities.
  2. Pumpkin painting. What is autumn without pumpkin decorating? Purchase our pumpkins, and there will be paints and brushes available for the kids to paint whatever faces they choose.
  3. Wagon rides. Once again, Trail Light Farms will bring its draft horses to Hale Farm to provide wagon rides along with tractor hay rides throughout the Harvest Festival weekends, and wagon rides are included in the admission price.
  4. Apple picking, apple butter making, and apple cider! You can come to the orchard and pick apples with a wire basket on a long pole, put the apples in a burlap sack, then come over to the Herrick House to add the apples to a large kettle of apple butter! We invite all guests to help stir the boiling butter and taste Ohio made apple butter in the Herrick House kitchen. At Hale Barn, you can help us press apples into cider the quintessential Ohio fall drink.Johnny Appleseed at Hale Harvest Festival
  5. Johnny Appleseed. Speaking of apples, Johnny Appleseed will stop by to tell comical stories at noon and 2:30 on all days of the Harvest Festival. Played by Ray McNiece, the Johnny Appleseed presentation will feature plenty of audience participation.
  6. Fleas N Tiques sale. The Citizens of Hale will hold its first Fleas N Tiques vintage sale during Harvest Festival hours. This unique sale includes antiques, vintage household items and collectibles ranging from the 1800s to mid-20th century. All proceeds from this sale will support the Citizens of Hale’s projects for Hale Farm, such as garden restoration and maintenance.
  7. Corn maze, straw pile jumping and a pumpkin patch! Need we say more?Hale Harvest Fest 5K Run
  8. The Hale Harvest 5K run on October 1. Avid runners and walkers can traverse a three-mile loop course, starting at 9:15 a.m. The top three finishers overall and the top male and female finishers per category will receive handcrafted pieces from Hale Farm’s craft and trade artisans. Registration is $30 per runner and includes free admission to the festival on that day. Check out for registration details.
  9. Good old-fashioned farm activities. Hale Farm & Village has always been known as a great escape from busy city life. So during the Harvest Festival, we’ll make sure to keep families busy with corn shucking, garden picking, and hand cultivating.
  10. Spinning, weaving, rugs, and lace. The Medina Spinning and Weaving Guild will be having a “spin-in” at the Hale House on October 1-2. What that means is, the group will bring their wheels and spin enough yarn to weave a blanket for the Goldsmith House. The other demonstrations include Western Reserve Rug Hookers (both Sundays of the festival) and Western Reserve Lace Society on October 8 and 9.

Of course, the Harvest Festival at Hale Farm will include other countless activities. We plan to have fall-themed crafts for the kids, and as with all of our festivals, our staff will demonstrate early American crafts and trades throughout the Village.

The Hale Café will feature home baked apple and pumpkin pies and pumpkin roles, harvest chicken salad and brats, as well as our signature apple cider mimosas. Pick up a jar of apple or pumpkin butter, hand-blown glass pumpkins or seasonal candles in the MarketPlace and plan to spend the day on the farm!

So rain or shine we will be having fun, bring the kids and let us entertain them!