Filed Under Environment

Brandywine Falls

Industry in the Cuyahoga Valley developed around natural features in addition to the man-made Ohio & Erie Canal. At sixty feet, Brandywine Falls stands taller than any other waterfall in the national park. Brandywine Falls provided early settlers of the valley with a beautiful landmark, as well as an important source of waterpower. In 1814, entrepreneur George Wallace built a sawmill to be powered by the rushing falls. Over the next ten years, Brandywine Village developed around the sawmill, which eventually included grist and woolen mills, as well as small group of houses for the mill workers and their families.

One of the earliest local communities in the nineteenth-century Cuyahoga Valley, Brandywine Village and its history illustrated the close ties between local industry and transportation networks. In 1825, George Wallace transferred his mill and properties to his children, who then established the Wallace Brothers Company. For thirty years, the village's mills and distillery thrived, producing wool, animal feed, and whiskey. The introduction of the Ohio & Erie Canal in the mid-nineteenth century brought new business and settlers to the Cuyahoga Valley who populated new communities in Boston and Peninsula. Without direct access to the canal, however, Brandywine Village watched as goods traveled between Akron and Cleveland, bypassing their own industrial settlement. Railroads, which came to the valley a few decades later, only hastened the village's demise. During the 1920s, Brandywine Village found new life and industry when Willis Hale built the Champion Electric Company amongst the ruins of Wallace's gristmill. Hale's company manufactured restaurant appliances until 1937 when lightening destroyed the factory and ended his business in the valley.

A boardwalk now invites visitors to enter the mossy gorge that once housed Brandywine Village settlers. The James Wallace House, built by George's son in 1848, now operates as the Inn at Brandywine Falls, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the location's history. Besides the restored house, only trace ruins of the village remain. Years of disuse and the construction of Interstate 271 contributed to the settlement's loss. With only the foundations of the gristmill visible to visitors today, the grandeur of the falls often eclipses the memory of the forgotten Brandywine Village.

Audio

Rise and Fall of Brandywine Rebecca Jones, interpretive ranger for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, talks about the history of Brandywine Village, including the impact of water power and the later canal. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
1920s Rebirth Park ranger Rebecca Jones explains the rebirth of Brandywine Village as an artists' colony and place of industry in the early twentieth century. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Seasons Brandywine Falls is the perfect location to observe how the seasons change the national park scenery. With less water in autumn, the waterfalls' bridal-veil pattern appears more pronounced, in contrast to the rushing torrents after spring rains and melting snow. Icicles in winter also draw visitors to the gorge, despite the chill. Photo by Carolyn Conklin.
Mossy Gorge Although the village has long since disappeared, visitors to the national park can walk through this mossy gorge where industry once thrived. From the boardwalk, visitors can see the Berea Sandstone, which includes grains of sand that accumulated 320 million years ago when the location was covered by water. Photo by Carolyn Conklin.
The Falls One of the most popular destinations in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Brandywine Falls was carved by Brandywine Creek thousands of years ago. A layer of hard rock protects softer layers of Bedford and Cleveland shales beneath, which formed from mud on the sea floor that covered the area 350-400 million years ago. Photo courtesy of Helmar ten Winkel.
James Wallace House James Wallace, son of George Wallace, built this house and barn in 1848. Now the only remaining structure from the original Brandywine Village, the restored home serves as an inn where visitors can sleep in this historic space while listening to the nearby falls. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
Brandywine Falls Grist Mill George Wallace began the original construction of Brandywine Village in 1814, which took advantage of water power from the falls. The Brandywine grist mill ground grains into flour, which was then sold to nearby valley residents. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Location

8176 Brandywine Rd, Sagamore Hills, OH 4406

Metadata

Carolyn Zulandt, “Brandywine Falls,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 8, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/349.