Kaleidoscope: Checking out two reservations in Metroparks, a historic farm

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published:

In four years, the Cleveland Metro-parks will mark their centennial, having been established in 1917 to provide open space for Greater

Clevelanders and conserve and preserve local terrain.

Today, the Metroparks -- referred to as "the Emerald Necklace"-- consists of more than 21,000 acres in 16 reservations, which include connecting parkways plus the Cleveland Zoo on the southwest side of the city.

The parks are spectacular venues for enjoying nature, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, picnicking and learning about the region's history.

Two years ago I wrote about visiting the North Chagrin Reservation on the southeast side of Cleveland, where the famous Squire's Castle stands, and the Bedford Reservation, home to Bridle Veil Falls and the Tinkers Creek valley.

On July 20, after an overnight rain ended in much of the Cleveland-Akron area, I headed to a couple of other reservations -- Rocky River west and south of Cleveland Hopkins Airport along Rocky River and Brecksville south of Route 82 along Chippewa Creek.

The 2,576 acres of Rocky River Reservation extends through eight communities -- Berea, Brook Park, Cleveland, Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Olmsted Township and Rocky River -- following the winding river.

The stream has carved through soft shales of the valley, creating a picturesque gorge. The reservation has a large nature center, marina, stables, three golf courses and the Frostville Museum, maintained by the Olmsted Historical Society founded in 1953.

In the northern portion of Brecksville Reservation, which is made up of 3,494 acres, Chippewa Creek flows through a gorge left behind by glaciers that once covered the area.

The reservation has an extensive system of trails, including a section of the Buckeye Trail. Squire Rich Home & Museum, managed by the Brecksville Historical Society, is on Brecksville Road, and Sleepy Hollow and Seneca golf courses are a part of the region.

Just to the east of the Brecksville Reservation runs the Cuyahoga River and a strip of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad running beneath the towering Route 82 bridge.

THE FROSTVILLE MUSEUM

To refer to this small parcel at Cedar Point and Lewis roads as a museum is deceiving. It isn't just a single museum; it is a grouping of historic homes and a church from Olmsted Township, most of which have been moved there from other locations.

From 1829 to 1843, the northern portion of Olmsted Township was called Frostville after Elias C. Frost, who came to the Western Reserve in 1807. He was a staunch abolitionist.

The complex consists of nine buildings -- Jenkins Cabin, the Prechtel house (the only one originally on the site), Gifford General Store, Village Church, Stearns carriage house, Carpenter and Briggs houses, Events Barn and Wensink Display Barn.

A farmers market takes place there on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May to October. A "trash and treasure" sale was going on the day I visited.

The Village Church dates to 1847 and was occupied by Methodist Episcopalians and Congregationalists until 1964, when the last regular Sunday service took place. It was moved to its present site in 2005.

It is a quaint one-story wooden frame building with a square bell tower in front. It is a popular spot for small weddings.

Jenkins Cabin was built in 1820, moved to Frostville in 1976, restored and opened to the public in 1980. It is the oldest known home in North Olmsted. A U.S. flag from the War of 1812 era is displayed inside.

The Carpenter house dates to 1831 and is said to be the earliest remaining Federal-style home in North Olmsted. It was moved stone by stone and board by board to Frostville in 1987. A video of the move is in the museum's archive room.

The Briggs house dates to 1836 and remained in the family for more than 130 years before being given to the society in 1969. It primarily displays items from United States wars. A diorama of the prison at Johnson's Island is the centerpiece, and items from Johnson's Island are displayed.

The Prechtel house dates to 1876. The society opened it to the public in 1962. The house has never had indoor plumbing, and the furnishings are typical of a country dwelling of the late 19th century. The second floor consists of one large room where most of the family slept.

The events barn was built in 1970 by the Metroparks as a location for the annual Haunted Barn, and was remodeled in 2005. It has a kitchen which serves as a concessions stand during special events, and the archives room is on the second floor.

A lean-to on the back end provides a space where live musical groups perform and listeners can lounge on benches and at picnic tables.

MORE IN THE RESERVATION

The Rocky River Reservation nature center is a short walk on a wooded trail from the parking lot to the large building.

It offers a spectacular view of a 360 million-year-old shale cliff from the deck overhanging the river. Inside is information on Dunkleosteus, a giant fish from the Devonian sea which inhabited the region.

Stuffed animals which frequent the area are on display, and there are glass tanks with live snakes and a sitting area to watch birds feed outside the large plate glass windows.

Visitors can explore the gardens outside on their way to more than five miles of trails that lead from the center. The trails lead to the river's edge, a wetlands forest, ponds, hilltops and an ancient American Indian earthworks.

Several foot and bicycle bridges span sections of Rocky River Reservation, and Valley Parkway crosses the east branch of the river several times on the way south to Bagley Road.

Just north of Bagley, the raging waters of Rocky River formed Berea Falls and there is an overlook. Post-glacial river water found its way along the Berea sandstone, seeping through fissures and cracks to the soft shale below. As the shale eroded, the sandstone on top was undermined and began to break off.

Those breaks in turn became Berea Falls. Berea sandstone, named for exposures near the city, is the remains of ancient river deltas. The highly rated sandstone is world famous. Originally quarried for grindstones, it also was used in building.

Just north of the Bagley-Barrett roads intersection, I came across an old stone arch railroad trestle across the east branch of Rocky River.

It has three stone arches, dates to about the 1870s and once served the Cleveland Cincinnati Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (better known as the Big Four and later the New York Central). The short section over the river remains, but the section over Barrett Road is gone.

The old edifice is sandwiched between two stone/concrete railroad bridges which now carry CSX and Norfolk Southern traffic. I discovered one was built in 1909 by the Big Four -- apparently to replace the older trestle -- and one was built by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern (later New York Central).

STEARNS FARM, BRECKSVILLE

On my way to the Brecksville Reservation, I stopped at the Stearns Homestead, Parma's last working farm when purchased by the city in 1980. It was surprising to see the 48-acre tract on Ridge Road right in the middle of commercial and housing developments.

The site is the home of the Parma Historical Society, which operates it as an educational and historic farm. It features two farmhouse museums, an historic barn and many animals. A country store and farmers market operate in the summer and fall.

The Stearns house, built around 1855, represents the Greek Revival style of architecture. The Yankee-style barn predates the house. The Gibbs house was built in 1920.

Inside the houses, some of the antique items to be seen are a baby stroller, sewing machine and phonograph.

The farm was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. The premises are open on weekends from mid-May to mid-October. Animals which can be seen -- and some petted -- include Holstein cows, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, horses, chickens and turkeys.

I arrived at the Brecksville Reservation nature center in the late afternoon. Like the Rocky River Reservation's center, it is a short walk down a wooded trail from the parking lot.

The Brecksville center has been around since 1939, having been built as a Works Progress Administration project. It's an example of chestnut carpentry with curved walnut leaves, wrought iron work and native stones inside and out. A wildlife feeding area attracts native mammals and birds year-round.

Inside are many large stuffed birds such as hawks and owls. There is a display showing what happens over the years after a tree rots and falls to the ground.

Trails leading from the center take hikers into deep forested ravines, through a restored prairie with grasses more than 8 feet tall and into glacial river valleys carved out more than 10,000 years ago.

Along Route 21 south of Route 82 on the western side of the reservation is the Squire Rich Home & Museum. The house was built in 1835 from walnut trees.

Operated by the Brecksville Historical Association, it showcases artifacts from early settlers, as well as Squire's journal and Benjamin Waite's Revolutionary gravesite.

The home is the site of several old-fashioned festivals -- Strawberry, Apple Butter and Corn. Crafts and demonstrations, such as woodworking and spinning, sometimes are featured.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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