Heritage Barns of Bath Trail opens to public

by Laura Bednar

Bath Township has a rich history of farming and community, so it’s fitting that the area’s newest attraction is a historic barn trail. The Heritage Barns of Bath trail was officially set to open on June 19 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Western Reserve Playhouse, one of nine stops along the self-guided trail.

The trail was the brainchild of resident James McClellan, who recently moved to Bath in his retirement.

“I chose to move to Bath for its intrinsic values,” said McClellan, adding that he and his wife wanted to serve the community by joining local organizations. Trustee Elaina Goodrich and former trustee Becky Corbett encouraged him to attend a Heritage Corridors of Bath committee meeting.

There, he proposed highlighting the township’s barns and after conducting research, a 30-member sub-committee of the Heritage Corridors of Bath was formed: Discover Bath Barns.

“I did not anticipate the enthusiasm of the community,” he said.

The goal of the subcommittee is to preserve the rural heritage of the barns and enhance the experience of visitors as they travel the scenic byways of Bath. McClellan and other committee members talked with almost 40 barn owners in the township to determine who would be willing to be part of the trail. After that, the list of barns was narrowed based on safety and available parking. McClellan said there was a focus on heritage barns that were at least 100 years old.

“I was thrilled so many barn owners came forward and have been excited about this,” said Corbett.

The 19-mile barn trail follows a portion of the 39 miles of the Heritage Corridors of Bath’s Scenic Byway. The byway is one of only 27 in the state, and the Ohio Department of Transportation designated it in 2000. According to a press release, the byway connects historical areas such as Ghent, Hammonds Corners, Hale Farm & Village and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Over 30 barns are visible along the byway.

“The trail highlights Bath’s intrinsic values of heritage, culture, the park system and recreation,” said McClellan.

The release stated many of these barns are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are situated in a National Register of Historic Places District or fall within the Ohio and Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.

At the ribbon-cutting, state Rep. Bill Roemer gave a commendation recognizing the trail and the efforts of the Discover Bath Barns committee.

Trail route

Trail visitors begin at the Heritage Corridors of Bath Wayside Exhibit on N. Cleveland-Massillon Road, where trail maps and brochures are available. People can download the trail map and brochure from the township’s website by scanning a QR code posted at the exhibit.

In addition, people can view the route and a narrative about each stop through the Ohio Department of Transportation scenic byways story map, which is accessible by mobile phone at transportation.ohio.gov/traveling/ohio-byways/Heritage+Corridors+of+Bath.

Stop 2 is the historic Bath Town Hall Museum and barn on N. Cleveland-Massillon Road. The barn was built in 1889 and originally had an upper level. It was used as a tool barn and storage building and is now part of the Bath Township Museum and Historical Society.

Stop 3 is the Lemmon barn at the North Fork Preserve on Everett Road. In 1955, the Lemmon family purchased the property and operated it as Happy Hollow Farm and the Greenberg Riding Centre. The barn is circa 1927 and was relocated to the property in 1962. The Lemmon family donated the land to be part of Bath’s newest park, the North Fork Preserve.

Stop 4 is the Underwood Barn, now the Western Reserve Playhouse, on Everett Road. Dairy farmer Ira Underwood built the barn in 1886. The Bath Community Players, now the Western Reserve Playhouse, purchased it in 1966 and converted it to a theater.

Stop 5 is the Swigart Barn at Crown Point Ecology Center on Ira Road. The Swigart family farmed the property in the 1850s, and the barn was built in 1910. The Dominican Sisters of Peace purchased the barn and 115-acre property in 1967. In 2010, Crown Point incorporated as a nonprofit and uses the barn to promote organic agriculture, environmental education programs and provide an event venue for weddings and concerts.

Stop 6 is Hale Farm & Village, the homestead of Jonathan Hale, one of the first settlers in Bath Township. Hale arrived there in 1810, as a result of a 500-acre purchase in the Western Reserve. Its red livestock and equipment barn was built circa 1850 and is one of eight original structures which still stand today.

Stop 7 is the Hammond-Cranz Barns on Ira Road, now under ownership of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The older barn, circa 1864, is furthest from the house and the larger one, circa 1885, is nearest to the house. Jason and Rachel Hammond established the homestead in 1818 and farmed the property until 1863 when William and Mary Cranz acquired the property. Three circles visible on the barn are thought to be remnants of hex signs, probably a Germanic indicator.

Stop 8 is the O’Neil Barn in the Summit County Metro Parks on W. Bath Road. William O’Neil, founder of General Tire and Rubber Company, and his wife Grace donated their 242-acre family farm to the Metro Parks in 1972. The family raised cattle and horses using the 1944 Gambrel Bank Barn, which today houses a small maternity colony of big brown bats.

The final stop is the Welton Barn on Wye Road. Hiram Welton owned the house and barn on this lot, which was built circa 1850. The barn, located in the Hamlet of Ghent, was used as a blacksmith shop. Today the barn is privately owned and houses a business.

Along the trail, travelers will drive past barns off the map as well township highlights like the Ira Road Cemetery, Bath Veterans Memorial Park, Bath Community Park and a slew of century homes.

“The Barn Trail has awakened an enthusiasm for our rural culture,” said Goodrich.

Quilt winner

Discover Bath Barns held a quilt square competition in conjunction with the trail opening. Western Reserve Playhouse members, Discover Bath Barns committee members and local quilt and history experts judged the 12 entries, choosing Laura Blanche’s design to be turned into a barn quilt for display on the Western Reserve Playhouse exterior.

Blanche said her design was inspired by the Bath Township sunshine logo. She added that when she was a child her mother, Libby Bauman, hand-sewed items for her and has a deep appreciation for Bath century homes and barns.

In addition to the quilt competition, Discover Bath Barns has organized a barn speaker series featuring experts on barn history, preservation and quilts. Details of other heritage events to celebrate the opening of the trail will be posted at bathtownship.org.

“There is a rich history in the community and it would be a shame for it to be lost,” said Corbett of the importance of the trail. “People should know there is more to Bath than Montrose.”

McClellan said the Discover Bath Barns committee will maintain the trail to ensure safety, note road changes and clear growth that may obstruct the view of a barn. Future plans include a display panel with an overview of Bath barns at the Wayside Exhibit.

Said McClellan, “The hope is that you learned something and enjoyed the experience and byway.”

July 14 is National Barn Day, and the Discover Bath Barns committee encourages Bath residents to follow the Bath Township Heritage Barn Trail that day. ∞

Laura Blanche won the barn quilt square
competition with her design inspired by
the Bath Township sunshine logo. Photo
by Laura Bednar.

The Welton Barn now houses a local business on Wye Road and is the final stop of the trail. Photo courtesy of James McClellan.

The Lemmon barn is part of the North Fork Preserve park on Everett Road and stop number 3 on the trail. Photo by Laura Bednar.

The map shows the nine stops along the trail, starting at the Wayside Exhibit on N Cleveland-Massillon Road. Photo submitted.

On our cover (photo): Members of the Discover Bath Barns committee, barn owners and community members cut the ribbon on the Heritage Barns of Bath trail. The Western Reserve Playhouse is one of the barns featured along the 19-mile trail. Read more on page 4. Photos by Laura Bednar.