Oglebay Story, Part 2

Earl W. Oglebay died in 1926 and willed his beloved Waddington Farm to the people of Wheeling and its vicinity for as long as they “shall operate it for public recreation.”  Under terms of the will, the city was asked to accept or reject the bequest within three years.

For almost two years the decision was delayed, although a small staff of “borrowed” Extension Service workers from West Virginia University (WVU) moved in and initiated a grass roots, seasonal recreation program utilizing dozens of local volunteers.  The Wheeling Park Commission and city fathers met often to try to figure out a way to finance Oglebay. The Park Commission had been formed in 1925 to manage Wheeling Park, and any other parks acquired by the city of Wheeling, either by gift or purchase. Finally, in July, 1928, Waddington Farm was accepted as Oglebay Park as the final hurdle was resolved when Oglebay’s daughter, Sarita Burton Russel, offered funds to maintainthe property during its first year of public operation. 

With only modest funds for capital improvements, the park commission set out to develop Oglebay into an outstanding recreation area that would attract visitors from near and far.  Many of the farm buildings were put to immediate use for social and educational activities.  Rooms were rented to overnight guests, setting a precedent that Oglebay was more than a day trip. 

Just one new facility — the front nine of the Crispin Golf Course — was constructed before the effects of the stock market crash of 1929 tightened its grip on the valley.  The course was dedicated July 4, 1930.

Through the darkest days of the Depression, volunteer committees planned musical programs, nature study, dramatics, vespers, picnics, dances, gardening activities, day camps, and museum programs.  Extension staff members were assigned to work with each of these interest groups.  The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra actually started as an outgrowth of the music committee, delighting the public with concerts at the park as early as 1929.

Much of the credit for the growth of the nature program in the early years at Oglebay goes to the highly respected naturalist Alonzo Beecher Brooks.  A.B. Brooks, 1912 graduate of WVU, and chief game protector for the state, was one of the “pioneers” who started the activities program at Waddington in 1927.  His daily nature walks enriched the lives of thousands of men, women, and children who grew to love the outdoors because of their association with Brooks. 

When federal relief funds became available in 1936, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp of about two hundred local craftsmen was established in the beech woods in the heart of the park.  For three years, an intense building program was carried out with Works Progress Administration funds and CCC labor.  These skilled workers constructed cottages, nature trails and roads, picnic sites, tennis courts, the outdoor theater, a youth camp (Camp Russel),  and the entire Crispin Center area, including the swimming pool, Pine Room, and the second nine of the golf course. 

Oglebay’s first family cottages were constructed out of old wooden poles no longer used by a local utility company. Since the poles were of different lengths, there were no blueprints for these cottages.  Because of the demand, the first winterized cottage was built in 1949, followed by a dozen others during the 1950s.  Sledding and skiing on the golf course hills, and ice skating on the lake, provided winter recreation for cottage guests.

America’s Future Trees Foundation – Keeping Oglebay Beautiful in the Past and in the Future

The America’s Future Trees Foundation (AFT) has been instrumental for more than half a century in keeping Oglebay and Wheeling Park two of the most beautiful recreation areas anywhere.  Founded by the late Oglebay heir Courtney Burton in the 1960s, AFT moved its headquarters to Oglebay in 1974 and, for many years, Burton matched contributions dollar for dollar.  Nearly 3,000 trees and shrubs were planted in the 1960s and 70s, following the establishment of AFT, and over the years, AFT has provided funds to invest in the planting of new trees and tree care. 

The trees installed in the 1960s and 1970s are declining and dying. Old age, disease, and pests, have taken their toll on the mature landscape and the Wheeling Park Commission (Oglebay’s governing board) has developed and is prepared to implement a comprehensive tree and landscape plan to meet the challenges that now threaten to destroy some of the beauty of the sweeping vistas and landscaping features that visitors have enjoyed for so long.

Today, AFT is housed under The Oglebay Foundation, but still operates in the manner it always has and still welcomes donations of any size. The Oglebay Foundation has launched a new campaign through AFT, with the goal to raise funds over the next few years to plan, manage, and care for the tree-covered grounds of Oglebay. The tangible attributes of trees and landscape plantings are easily measured. But equally important are the intangible pleasures which trees present in our daily lives. Trees enhance our lives, reduce our stress and make us feel connected with and to nature. Your contribution to America’s Future Trees Foundation, no matter how modest, will assure that future generations have the chance to enjoy the trees we plant today.  Call the Oglebay Foundation office at 304-243-4166 to request an AFT brochure and/or further information.

Good Zoo’s Accreditation No Small Accomplishment

The Good Zoo at Oglebay is a gem of a facility and a unique player in the world of global wildlife conservation as shown by its re-accreditation by the prestigious Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

The independent accreditation process includes a detailed application and meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained professionals. The inspecting team observes areas such as animal care, keeper training, safety (for animals AND people), educational programs, conservation efforts, veterinary programs, financial stability, risk management, visitor services, and more. Top officials are also interviewed at a formal hearing. An accreditation visit occurs about every five years, and only accredited facilities may be members of the AZA. Just 10% of the 2,000 licensed zoos in the US are accredited by the AZA. The mission of the AZA is to establish, uphold, and raise industry standards through self-evaluation, on-site inspection, and peer review.

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA encourages you to look for its logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. For more information, visit www.aza.com

The Oglebay Story, Part 1

Oglebay’s story, from a model farm/country estate in the early 1900s to today’s modern resort and conference center, begins in 1901 when Earl W. Oglebay, Cleveland industralist and Ohio Valley native purchased Waddington Farm. The name Waddington was given to the property in the 1850s by brewer George W. Smith in nostalgic memory of his English home Waddington Heath.  He constructed a number of the buildings that are still in use today and gained a reputation for his exceptional fruit orchards.

After Smith and his family fled the farm during the Civil War, it changed hands a number of times and much of the property was sold off.  During the quarter-century that Earl Oglebay was “master of Waddington” (1901-1926), he increased the farm to about the same acreage as the original land grant (750 acres).  Mr. Oglebay spared no expense or effort in turning the property into a beautiful country estate as well as a model farm. Although the Oglebays were in residence at Waddington during the summer months only, they enlarged and improved the farmhouse (now the Mansion Museum), adding “wings” on either side and broad porches known as colonnades.  Curious Wheeling residents would often ride up from town to view the improvements.

Mr. Oglebay’s Waddington was a “highly-developed” estate — with gardens and greenhouses, beehives, a piggery, poultry and sheep departments, dairy and creamery, warehouses, a power house and a blacksmith shop.  Waddington’s “main business” was its dairy operation.  According to a popular farm magazine of the day, Oglebay’s dairy herd was unsurpassed for producing quality milk with high butterfat content.

Mr. Oglebay also worked hard to improve the quality of life for rural families. Important research in soil cultivation and crop rotation was carried out at his farm, he arranged for the first agriculture extension agent to come to the county, and he supported development of the 4-H Clubs.  Mr. Oglebay believed passionately in the value of education and was generous in his support of West Virginia University (WVU) and his alma mater, Bethany College.

Residents honored Earl Oglebay as the “Most Useful Citizen of West Virginia” in 1915 as a feature of the state’s Panama-Pacific Exposition exhibit.  Several attempts were made to persuade him to run for the United States Senate, but Oglebay remained adamant in his decision not to run for political office, preferring to concentrate his efforts on the improvement of agriculture and education.  His greatest legacy, however, was yet to come.