History of the Land
The first European settlers arrived in Bath Township in 1810. The Crown Point property was first part of the 1,100 acres owned by Jason Hammond, a farmer, miller and merchant from Bolton, Connecticut.
Tax records from the 1800s indicate Jacob and Abigail Swigart built a home in 1854 on Crown Point property using hand-hewn wood from the property. Between 1862 and 1879, the property changed hands four times with the final purchase in 1879 by Roswell Hopkins Jr. for $9,300. The Hopkins family owned the property until 1949; however, they never lived on the land.
The Early 1900s
In 1910, an appraisal of the Crown Point property indicated the following features:
- 110-acres plow land – GOOD;
- 23-acres pasture – FAIR;
- 15-acres timber – FAIR;
- house – FAIR;
- barn – NEW.
The NEW 1910 barn indicated in this appraisal is the same barn present at Crown Point today. Oral history of the area claims that the previous barn burned down when renting farmers built a fire to keep their baby pigs warm.
In 1949 the property was purchased by Hugh and Mary Ann Stoller. By this time most of the buildings were in desperate need of repair. The original 1854 house was completely stripped down to the posts and beams. The basement, which was originally only four feet deep, was excavated by hand. A living room and master bedroom were added. Most of the wood for the restoration was obtained from trees on the property and milled in the barn. Butternut was used for the fireplace and the bedroom was finished with native oak.
The Stollers maintained a large herd of registered prize winning cattle. At its peak there were 87 in the herd. The farm was also known for its horses, pigs and large orchard.
In 1962, the highway department purchased 13 acres in order to relocate Route 21, now Interstate 77. In 1963 a spring-fed pond was added to the northeast corner of the property.
As Hugh and Mary Ann Stoller reached the age of retirement, they realized that their sons were not interested in maintaining the farm. At the same time, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Akron were making plans to build a new high school. Realizing that this construction would take the remainder of their property near downtown Akron, the Sisters began looking for a property for future needs.
The Sisters of St. Dominic
In August 1967 the Sisters visited the property with the Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. They were invited to “see the sights from the ‘Crown Point’ of Bath Township.” The Bishop was impressed and offered to buy the property for use by the Diocese if the Sisters did not buy it. By September 1967 the Sisters had taken the initial steps to purchase the property from the Stollers.
In order to realize an immediate income from the property, the house was renovated and turned into a preschool under the direction of Sr. Kathleen Rachan. During renovations the Sisters tried to maintain the architectural lines of the Western Reserve style.
A farm atmosphere was preserved by the presence of 18 steer, one heifer, four ponies, chickens, cats and dogs. The upper part of the barn was used as a gym for the children, and a small playground with a fort and ‘lookout hill’ was added. The pre-school was in operation from 1968 to 1977.
A New Beginning for a Special Place
After the pre-school closed the Sisters continued to reside at Crown Point. The fields were leased to a farmer and the Orchard House was used as a vacation get-away and place of private retreat.
The Sisters were often urged to sell the property as the demand for land grew in Bath. In 1988 the leadership of the Congregation began to study possible uses for the property. The Committee focused on determining the most ecologically responsible use of the land. They also requested that no synthetic chemicals be used on the fields.
Crown Point Ecology Center
In June 1989 members and friends of the Congregation gathered to celebrate the Environmental Sabbath with a blessing of the Crown Point property and a prayer of rededication. Sr. Miriam Therese MacGillis from Genesis Farm in New Jersey spent two days with the Congregation and encouraged the Sisters to maintain and care for this land.
In 1990 Crown Point began to offer workshops and study groups to the public and reinvented itself as an education and ecology center. Today Crown Point offers a variety of educational programs for both children and adults. Each year, hundreds of children participate in the Summer Farm & Science Camp, Youth Service Learning Projects, and more. For adults, Crown Point offers labyrinth walks, seasonal celebrations, and retreats.
In 1997, Crown Point began to grow produce for distribution to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Since the Foodbank Farm has been in existence, Crown Point has donated more than 140,000 lbs of organic produce to the Foodbank and the farm has expanded to 10 acres. In 1998, Crown Point also began a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Beginning with only 20 families in its inaugural year, the CSA now has more than 200 families each year.
In 2010, Crown Point Ecology Center reincorporated as its own 501(c) 3 not-for-profit to expand beyond the umbrella of the Dominican Sisters of Peace and take the first steps to being self-funded and supported by members, programs and donations. While the Dominican Sisters of Peace are still involved in Crown Point Ecology Center and the Foodbank Farm, Crown Point has emerged as a “Crown Point” in the area in terms of ecological education, organic farming and sustainability. In this new era for Crown Point, guided by the core values of community, sustainability, spirituality and justice, our mission is to demonstrate the practical applications of ecology and to connect spirituality, social justice and environmental protection.