Richfield Heritage Preserve
A Summary of Its History
Richfield Heritage Preserve (RHP) is also rich in history. The land was opened to white settlers through the Connecticut Land Company in 1795. There was a Native American presence (specifically Wyandots and Tawas, also known as Ottawas) until sometime around the end of the War of 1812. Mason and Fanny Oviatt built a home, which is still standing, on the property in 1836. The Oviatts had a connection to abolitionist John Brown, who lived in Richfield at the time, and Mason is said to have played a role in the underground railroad. In 1918, C.J. Neal started a 200-acre commercial orchard, featuring apples and peaches, on the grounds. He eventually constructed and sold his produce in a building located off Broadview Road which later became local fixture Vaughn’s Country Counter Stop-N-Shop and is now a Giant Eagle store. Clarence and Clara Neal built two houses (now known as North and Coach Houses) and moved onto the property in 1928. With the building of Amity House, Herbert and Helen Neal joined them there in 1936. James Blaine Kirby purchased the 100-acre Oviatt Farm in 1919. Kirby was a prolific inventor dedicated to “eliminating the drudgery of housework” and eventually amassed over 150 patents, most involving laundry machines or vacuum cleaners but also including such diverse items as a fishing reel and tooth-cleaning device as well as a number of inventions which benefited his Richfield property, including a first of its kind water-powered millwheel to produce hydroelectric power for his home and workshop. Kirby sold his estate to the Cleveland Girl Scout Council in 1937, and the remaining acreage was purchased by the Council in 1957. Girl Scout Camp Crowell Hilaka was officially closed in December 2011. On November 4, 2014 the voters of Richfield Village and Richfield Township approved a bond issue to purchase the Crowell Hilaka property and a levy for funds to operate it. Title to the property officially transferred to the RJRD, which now administers and operates it, on June 30, 2015, and the park opened to the public from dawn to dusky daily on October 6, 2015. The property was renamed Richfield Heritage Preserve on August 22, 2016.