History, Mission, and Values
The Founding of Cincinnati Nature Center
For many years Stanley M. Rowe, Sr. had the vision of a wooded preserve where children of Cincinnati would be taught to appreciate and understand the natural world. In 1965, his vision became a reality with the creation of Cincinnati Nature Center. With the help of twelve dedicated and visionary naturalists, including Rosanne Krippendorf Adams, Marian Becker, Kay Benedict, Helen Black, Richard Deupree, Richard Durrell, Rowe Hoffman, Karl Maslowski, Kay Nyce, Fritz Rauh, Louise Rowe, and Louise Tate, the 175-acre wooded estate of Carl and Mary Krippendorf was acquired. A National Audubon Society evaluation confirmed that the site located in Perintown, Clermont County, which we now call Rowe Woods, was an excellent setting for a nature center.
The Nature Center opened to the public on Sunday, April 16, 1967, with five staff members and over 300 founding members.The original Krippendorf residence served as the first visitor center and director’s residence. School field trips began and members had access to hiking trails and natural history programs. As described in the Cincinnati Enquirer Pictorial Magazine in April of 1967, the founders believed very strongly that children needed to have a personal experience in nature.
In 1971, the Rowe Visitor Center opened on the edge of the recently built Powel Crosley Lake. This facility significantly expanded the capacity for members and school programs. In 1973, Neil McElroy, then Chairman of Procter and Gamble, and his wife, Camilla, donated their Long Branch Farm (LBF) in Goshen, Ohio, to Cincinnati Nature Center. They were interested in its preservation as green space and use in teaching people about the source of food and fiber. By 1975, Cincinnati Nature Center membership had grown to 3,214 and the Nature Center now preserved over 1,200 acres, including over 700 acres at Rowe Woods and 535 acres at Long Branch Farm.
In 1995, another gift of land in Evendale, Ohio, was made to the Nature Center by siblings Jim and Dorothy Gorman. They were fifth generation direct descendants of the Brown family which started farming this 100-acre parcel in 1835. Cincinnati Nature Center opened Gorman Heritage Farm in 1996 to tell the story of the small family farm in America. In order to sustain the property and programs financially, it was transferred in May 2004 to the Village of Evendale, which continues operation and serves the original vision set forth by the Gormans.
In September of 2004, Cincinnati Nature Center purchased 235 acres adjacent to Rowe Woods, previously owned by Grace Groesbeck, a close friend of the Krippendorfs. The Presbytery of Cincinnati had operated Wildwood Camp and Conference Center on the property since 1960, but could no longer afford to maintain it. This acquisition expanded our trail system, provided a new home for our summer day camp, preserved a mature forest, and added to the Nature Center’s cultural history of people and the land.
Today, Cincinnati Nature Center’s two sites, Rowe Woods and Long Branch Farm & Trails, comprise more than 1,600 acres of irreplaceable natural and agricultural land. The Nature Center has grown to be one to the top 10 nature centers in the country, while remaining true to its original mission of connecting people, especially children, to the natural world.
The Krippendorf Legacy
Cincinnati Nature Center’s legacy began with Carl Krippendorf, born in Cincinnati in 1875 to German immigrants. His father was the founder and president of the Krippendorf-Dittman shoe company. When young Carl became ill with typhoid, his doctor counseled the Krippendorfs to send Carl away from the dirty air of the city. A country doctor living in Perintown agreed to house Carl for the summer. Thus began Carl’s love affair with nature.
In 1898, Carl Krippendorf purchased 97 acres of the land where he spent the summer recuperating in order to prevent it from becoming a tobacco field. In the heart of his beloved woods, He built a home for his new bride, Mary, where they lived for 64 years. Carl and Mary invited everyone they knew to experience the land they loved and affectionately called “Lob’s Wood.” It’s often been said that no one left the Krippendorf property empty handed. Carl was known to give daffodil, Lycoris and other bulbs to his visitors. Today, Krippendorf Lodge, thousands of daffodils, and the beautiful beech and maple woods continue to preserve the Krippendorf legacy at Rowe Woods in Milford
McElroy's Long Branch Farm
A strong belief in the importance of education characterized Neil McElroy’s life. The son of school teachers, he grew up in a Cincinnati suburb. After earning a degree in economics from Harvard in 1925, McElroy accepted a job in the Procter & Gamble mail room. In 1948, at the age of 48, he became the president of Procter & Gamble and was elected Chairman of the Board in 1959. McElroy served on the boards of numerous local and national organizations, many which promoted and supported education. In 1954, at the request of President Dwight Eisenhower, he chaired an 18-month White House Conference on Education. From 1957-59, McElroy served as Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense.
After moving back to Cincinnati, the McElroy’s bought Long Branch Farm in Goshen Township, Clermont County. When they donated their farm to Cincinnati Nature Center in 1972, it was their wish that it be maintained as a working farm “in connection with educational activities” and be “kept intact in order to preserve wooded areas, flowers and its natural beauty.”