by Holly Witchey, PhD
In 1905 Jeptha Homer Wade II (1857-1926) acquired 455 acres in what is now Hunting Valley, Ohio and built a summer farm residence, Valley Ridge Farm. In 1977, the bulk of the still extant farm buildings and 104 acres were gifted to Case Western Reserve University, where today they form a part of the 400-acre University Farm.
Jeptha Homer Wade II was the grandson of Western Union founder Jeptha Homer Wade I (1811-1890), whose wealth and vision, along with that of his grandson, helped to transform the arts and culture, health and welfare, and higher education infrastructures of Cleveland. Jeptha Homer Wade II was an active philanthropist, serving as a trustee of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), Western Reserve University, Adelbert College, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. He was an incorporator of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1913. The role of influential families in creating tangible legacies characterized a particular aspect of American philanthropy. To a great degree, these 19th- and 20th-century gifts built the cultural infrastructure of the arts and higher education in America.
In 2014 the Cleveland History Center (CHC) of WRHS initiated The Wade Project to focus on the Wade family's historic legacy in Cleveland while serving as a resource and hub for collaborative projects with other institutions holding Wade materials. In 2015, Wade Project Director Holly Witchey, PhD (GRS '90), an adjunct faculty member in the CWRU Department of Art History, contacted Ana Locci, PhD, University Farm director, to discuss opportunities for collaboration over shared archival materials. Since 2014, CHC staff have digitized more than 9,000 pages (5.60 linear feet, 15 containers, 17 rolls of microfilm) that comprise MS. 3292 The Jeptha Homer Wade Family Papers Series II in order to eventually make them accessible online. The collection consists of correspondence, wills, diaries, autobiographical sketches, memoranda, deeds, contracts, drawings, financial records, passport documents, land grants, notes, receipts, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks.
During this process, collections in Library/Archives of CHC have been combed for other materials relating to the Wade family, culminating in the discovery of a set of drawings and blueprints for Valley Ridge Farm identified by Ann Sindelar, CHC Reference Supervisor, and confirmed by Locci. These materials—including floor plans of the Wade House and detailed drawings of its gardens with their plantings, water fountains, gazebos, and benches—are currently being scanned for use in Ana Locci's upcoming May 2016 class, Historical Gardens at the Squires' and Wades' Country Estates (1903-1937).
*Photo courtesy of the
Library/Archives of the Cleveland History Center of Western Reserve Historical Society