“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & Village

“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & VillageWhile DIY, or “do it yourself”, projects have become a trendy way of life in recent years, recycling and repurposing has always been a part of farm living – especially at Hale Farm & Village. Preserving the story of the Western Reserve is the backbone to the InHale initiative, and we could not do it without the help of community members who volunteer their versatile skills and talents.

When making new developments and improvements, we encourage repurposing materials recovered on our 90+ acres of land. But, what exactly is repurposing? Repurposing can be done by modifying material to fit a new use, or by using the material in a new way. Ultimately, instead of throwing away used or worn material, that material can be reworked to create something that appears brand new.


“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & VillageSo how does this work at a living history museum? “Back in 2015, all twenty-two sets of shutters on the three-story brick Hale House were restored and repainted,” offers Joe Tokarsky, Preservation Lead at Hale Farm. “Also, our sheep were given new feeders and our crafters were given new looms from repurposed wood.” All of these projects directly support the mission of the museum and our ability to provide quality programs for our visitors and the community.

The latest repurposing project at Hale Farm is a multipurpose, saltbox shaped wood shed, built entirely out of repurposed wood from old fencing in the Hale Farm south pasture. The man behind the scenes of these various projects is Bill Dunick. Dunick has been volunteering at Hale Farm & Village for two and a half years, offering us his expertise in carpentry and repurposing. Dunick resides in Kent, Ohio and is a Kent State graduate in Industrial Arts. He worked in engineering and manufacturing management for forty years and has built three homes in his lifetime. A friend of Dunick’s was a volunteer at Hale Farm and suggested he join the team as well. Although Dunick’s superb and efficient work has been in high demand on the farm, he is free to work at his leisure. Dunick volunteers at Hale Farm not only for his enjoyment of carpentry, but because of the importance of repurposing. “As a society, we need to repurpose. Today we throw things away; I see a pile of what you would think is trash as a new creation that can be repurposed.”

As a volunteer, Dunick chooses his hours and is provided with tools, space, and materials to work with. There are plenty of projects to go around at Hale Farm & Village, so if you are interested in creating and preserving, please click here for more information about volunteer opportunities.

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.