Rising in the rolling hills east of Cleveland, turning to the west, bending at the north, and winding its way toward Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River flows past a fertile valley filled with streams, gorges and ravines, several kinds of trees, wild hops and flora. Land once abundant with game lured trappers and explorers, followed by missionaries, settlers and industrial magnates. Next came urban dwellers in search of a pleasant, picturesque place to escape city life.
Day-trippers still come in droves to see a portion of the Cuyahoga Valley’s verdant green pastures that has been preserved as Hale Farm & Village in Bath, Ohio. Since 1958, the Western Reserve Historical Society’s 100-acre experiential learning community has preserved and shared the story of the Western Reserve through four core interpretive themes: farm and horticulture; historic preservation; early American crafts and trades; and local and American history. It is considered one of America’s finest outdoor living-history museums.
One of the New Englanders who settled the Western Reserve was Jonathan Hale, a Connecticut farmer who purchased 500 acres in the wilderness of the Cuyahoga Valley. Hale traveled 646 miles in 28 days, recording his journey in a diary before arriving on July 13, 1810. He and his family first made their home in a one-room log cabin surrounded by forest, and they lived there for the next 15 years.
In 1825, the same year that construction began on the life-changing Ohio & Erie Canal, Hale began work on an elegant three-story brick farmhouse with the raw material his property and its surroundings provided. The bricks were made from clay across the road, while the mortar came from Hale’s own limestone business. The nails and the iron door hinges and latches — many of which still exist in the house — were likely cast in Tallmadge.
Two years later, both the canal and the Hale home were completed. “Old Brick” was one of only two all-brick buildings in the Cuyahoga Valley.
With elaborate lintels, hand-hewn beams and wide floorboards, the home is a Federal-style showplace. Three fireplace mantels are particularly unique examples of vernacular workmanship, with small, ribbed panels, some of which have been pierced with holes near the top and bottom.
After Hale died in 1854 at age 77, the homestead remained in the family for three generations. Entrepreneurial horticulturalist Charles Oviatt Hale (1850-1938) and his wife, Pauline, opened the home to guests and boarders as the Hale Inn. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, peaceful pastureland and an abundant orchard, the Hale Inn became a favorite getaway destination for city-dwellers. When Hale’s great-granddaughter died in 1956, the property was bequeathed to the Western Reserve Historical Society to be established as a museum focusing on the history and culture of the Western Reserve.
Other pre-1850s buildings in the area, representing a variety of architectural styles and several threatened with demolition, were acquired for preservation and moved to the farm to create a village typical of those in the early Western Reserve. After the often-complicated task of moving, they are now situated in “Wheatfield Village,” around a village green, a town feature traditionally used for public speeches and gatherings, as well as for grazing.
The first two structures to be relocated were the Saltbox House, named for its common New England architectural style, which was built in 1830 in Richfield and is interpreted as the home of a German family. The Greek Revival-style Jagger House, built in 1845 by Clement Jagger, a prosperous carriage-maker in Bath, is interpreted as the home and office of a doctor and his family. A local artist stenciled the walls.
A log schoolhouse built in 1816 in Summitville and a gristmill were followed by a Greek Revival-style meeting house built in Streetsboro in 1852. Its steeple, destroyed by a storm before its relocation, was reproduced using drawings made for the Historic American Building Surveys in the 1930s.
The Goldsmith House, designed and built in 1831 in Willoughby by Jonathan Goldsmith, a significant early architect in the Western Reserve, for merchant William Peck Robinson. Before it was slated for demolition and moved in 1973, it had been altered to serve as an apartment building, but was still in excellent condition. Incorporating both Federal and Greek Revival architectural elements, the T-shaped house is considered one of the finest buildings in the Western Reserve.A lovely facsimile of an 1830s garden was created next door, based on extensive research of plants used in the area at that time as described in agricultural society notes, diaries of homeowners, and newspaper advertisements and gardening columns.Herrick House, built by Jonathan Herrick in 1845 in Twinsburg, is interpreted as the home of a successful dairy farmer. A well-crafted example of Greek Revival architecture, the stone structure is characteristic of designs that were included in builders’ manuals, such as those by Asher Benjamin and Minard Lafever. When the house was disassembled, the individual stones were numbered, then moved, and the house was reconstructed using field drawings that had been made of the building. To complement various barns moved to the property, Tunis sheep, Percheron Draft horses and milking Shorthorn cattle live at Hale Farm.A pottery, a glassblower’s building, blacksmith shop were also moved to the village to provide visitors with the experience of hand-crafting on the Western Reserve. Baskets, brooms and candles are other examples of crafts made in the village. Carding, spinning and weaving are demonstrated at the Hale home. See examples of handwoven cotton curtains and Venetian carpets made on site for the Saltbox House, the Goldsmith House, the Herrick House and the Meeting House.
Learn how to dye handspun wool by boiling natural materials like dandelion and goldenrod to produce yellow; black walnut husks and onion skins for brown hues; woad leaves for blue indigo; and madder plants to create red.
Open seasonally, Hale Farm and Village is a destination on both the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
To add to the Hale experience, take a “Handcrafted at Hale” class in natural dyeing, weaving, spinning, pottery, glassblowing, hearth cooking, and other traditional handcrafts, such as those celebrated in A Symphony for the Sheep, illustrated by Mary Azarian. Uncover how a rural 19th-century family made a woolen blanket from scratch in The Pen That Pa Built, by David Edwards, which inspired Hale weavers to recreate the weaving pattern used for the blanket.
For more on Hale Farm and Village, see the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Handbook, by Carolyn V. Platt, and The Jonathan Hale Farm: A Chronicle of the Cuyahoga Valley, by John J. Horton. The Goldsmith Garden is included in Green Byways: Garden Discoveries in the Great Lakes States, by Sharon Lappin Lumsden.