Being an independent architect, my best friend not only gets to work on a wide variety of projects, he also gets invited to look at unusual buildings. One of his clients recently invited him to a gathering at Richfield Heritage Preserve, an area that previously served as the estate of Jim Kirby (of the Kirby vacuum) and later as Camp Julia Crowell (a Girl Scout camp). Though the main reason for his invitation was to see the “bounce house,” a wooden dance hall on springs, my friend found lots of older buildings plus plenty of trails that he wanted to explore.
Naturally, he thought of me. So we headed up today to enjoy some holiday hiking.
We started heading north from the parking lot, stopping at two older lakeside cottages in need of restoration. Amity House, the first, featured a castle-like tower with turret as well as an open-air pavilion and back terrace. North House, a Tudor-style cottage, was built using bricks from Public Square in Cleveland. (I also discovered it had an active wild bee hive under the eaves!) Both are empty and, upon closer examination, in need of some structural repair as well as cosmetic.
We continued following the main road, which paralleled the Buckeye Trail, and turned off with the trail toward a clearing bordered by camping shelters. Simple wooden structures with wooden sleeping benches and front walls covered with heavy tarps, thee shelters would probably look like luxury accommodations to tired hikers!
From here, we followed the Buckeye Trail into the woods, across a small stream, and along the Upper Lake. But since we both wanted to see more of the old Girl Scout camp, we detoured through an outdoor kitchen and campfire area to look at one of the sleeping cabins. (And boy, did that bring back memories of staying in a cabin like that when I was younger!)
We followed an old road to Storybook Trail, a lovely woodland path through the “Forest of the Lost Green Cathedral.” With the morning sunlight streaming through orderly stands of pines and other tall trees, it struck me as a very apt name!
Not quite a mile later, we ended up at the south end of the property, where we could walk past Kirby House and the old water mill that Kirby designed to generate electricity. We followed a trail around the lake, hiking up and down through the woods, before arriving at Garfield Hall, the “bounce house.” Sadly, we couldn’t go in for a quick dance, just to test out the springs.
Behind the hall, we picked up the Buckeye Trail again and followed it along the stream connecting the Upper and Lower Lakes. I felt my energy flagging, and I was happy to reach the dam at the Upper Lake and to walk the final distance back to the car.
Our whole route covered just under 3.5 miles and took us through most of the property, so it made a great morning adventure.