Spring is always a busy time for me at Brecksville Nature Center with school group programs, preschool programs and planning ahead for summer camps. But, this year I am very excited to be busy with a special project. I have the honor of coordinating Brecksville Nature Center’s 75th anniversary celebration on June 6 – 8. The last of Cleveland Metroparks three original Trailside Museums, Brecksville Nature Center opened on June 11, 1939 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Brecksville Trailside Museum (now called Brecksville Nature Center)
You can imagine that a building of this age needs a little sprucing up. As I polished the chestnut paneling and the oak doors with Old English, I thought about the hands of the hardworking skilled craftsmen from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) who proudly built this historic place. I’m fascinated with how every beam and panel was fitted into place by hand and how clever it was to mark the beams and posts with Roman numerals to match them up. There is a “band-aid” in one of the beams - a reminder to always measure twice and cut once. As I wiped a cobweb away, I wondered about the man who made that mistake and the moment he realized the beam didn’t fit. Did the rest of the crew ever let him live it down? I thought about the blacksmith who hand-crafted the wrought iron light fixtures as each one was taken apart and cleaned. I’m amazed at the workmanship and attention to detail.
Roman numeral markings for construction
Hand carved sassafras leaf displayed in Brecksville Nature Center from The Great Depression era
Many naturalists have been privileged to share their love of nature with visitors here at Brecksville Nature Center over the years, including Harold Wallin and Don Dean. They were the first naturalists to work here in 1939. As I look through historic files and records preparing for my upcoming programs, I feel so honored to carry on the traditions and legacies they left. They implemented the traditional “Hand Feed a Chickadee” program back in 1940, led summer day camps for children, and had a passion for connecting people with the world around them. Harold Wallin later became Cleveland Metroparks first Chief Naturalist in 1954. On June 7 we will honor Harold Wallin by dedicating the creek behind the nature center in his name. It will be known as Wallin Creek.
I invite you to come celebrate Brecksville Nature Center’s 75th anniversary with us June 6 – 8 and experience the rich history here through songs, hikes, tours, nostalgic fun and more. Come hear our stories and plan on sharing some of your own. I would love to hear about your own memories of this historic place.
For more information regarding the 75th anniversary weekend events, please call Brecksville Nature Center at (440) 526-1012, or visit www.clevelandmetroparks.com.
Jenny McClain, Naturalist
Brecksville Nature Center