Saturday, August 18th, 2018

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Hale Farm & Village celebrates its 50th anniversary

A charming log cabin built in 1805 on the grounds at
Hale Farm & Village. (Photograph by John Bashian)

Reenactor Mary Frances McGinty stands dressed in
period costume in the doorway of Goldsmith House.
(Photograph by Kathryn Riddle)

Hale Farm & Village celebrates its 50th anniversary


In 1810, Jonathan Hale, his wife Mercy Piper Hale and their five children ended the arduous trek through the wilderness to settle on 500 acres in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Ohio had been a state only since 1803, the same year as the Louisiana Purchase and President Thomas Jefferson proposed the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Born in 1777 in Glastonbury, Conn., Jonathan Hale, an infant in a young country that had declared its own independence in 1776, was a pioneer, imbued as much with the spirit of adventure as he was undaunted in his pursuit to make a new home in a new land for his family.
Almost two centuries later, the Jonathan Hale Homestead, on 190 acres now protected by surrounding National Park Service land of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, has evolved into Hale Farm & Village that this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. The property was acquired in 1956 in a bequest to the Western Reserve Historical Society by Clara Belle Ritchie, Jonathan Hale’s great-granddaughter, whose will, according to WRHS records, stipulated that the Historical Society was “to establish the Hale Farm…as a museum…to the end that the greatest number of people may be informed as to the history and culture of the Western Reserve.”
Within a year after Hale Farm & Village opened to the public in 1958, Seigfried Buerling became its first director, a position he held until his retirement in 1998. During his tenure, period buildings, endangered by demolition, were acquired from other sites within the Western Reserve area and comprise the Village, a complement to original Hale Homestead buildings that include Hale House (1827) known as “Old Brick,” Sheep Barn (1870), Farm Barn (1854) and Sugar House, built by Jonathan Hale’s grandson C.O. Hale in the early 20th century.
Kelly Falcone-Hall, newly-appointed vice president of Hale Farm & Village, said that when former WRHS Executive Director Dick Erlich arrived here in 1993, he brought with him from his experience at Plymouth Plantation the “teach and entertain” approach to the living history museum. It breathed new life into Hale Farm & Village’s existing programs that include first-person interpretation presented by trained reenactors, historic craft and trades demonstrations and historic agriculture of rural 19th century life. These programs, along with specific special events and festivals, continue to draw thousands of visitors each year.
“Our attendance is 60 to 65,000 people, with 24,000 pre-school age children to college students,” said Kelly, who from 1997 to 2001 was site historian and director of interpretation at Hale Farm & Village. Kelly developed the Holiday Lantern Tours, Farmhouse Suppers and Fugitive’s Path: Escape on the Underground Railroad, a program that will commence following the Civil War years cycle from 1861 to 1865, plus one year on Reconstruction.
“Our vision is to ramp up our trade production,” said Kelly. “We are developing a business plan for the glassworks that once opened again, can produce our glass that is sold here and at museums across the country. The weather stops us from winter programming — the only time we are “closed” is in January to mid-February — as Hale Farm is an active, working farm.”
This year’s final two opportunities to visit Hale Farm & Village are in December: the Yule Log (usually a WRHS members-only event, but call to inquire) and the Holiday Lantern Tours, scheduled the first two weekends and on December 19 to 23. For information, visit or call 330.666.3711.

The Meetinghouse.
(Photograph by Kathryn Riddle)

Smoke wafts from the chimney of the Blacksmith Shop at
Hale Farm & Village. Nearby is the Sheep Barn,
built in 1870 and original to the property.
(Photograph by Kathryn Riddle) 

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