History

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Frank and Carmen Warner
In 1931, Dr. Frank Warner of Columbus gave his new bride, Carmen Hambleton, an unusual wedding present: ninety-four acres of old farmland in southern Fairfield County. Mrs. Carmen Warner named the property Wahkeena.

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Wahkeena site manager, Tom, at Wahkeena Falls in Oregon
Wahkeena is a Yakama Indian word meaning “most beautiful,” named after a waterfall along the Columbia River gorge in Oregon. The property was studded with old buildings, including a white log-framed house, log barn, hog house, smokehouse, and other structures.
 Wahkeena’s appearance was profoundly transformed in the years after the Warner’s bought it. Some of the building were torn down, and their logs were used to rebuild the lodge and garage. The old hog house became a charming guest house, while the smokehouse became a potting shed, an important part of Carmen’s gardening plans.
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The farm that would later become Wahkeena, circa 1931

The Warners planted more than 100,000 trees on the hillsides and around the lodge. Carmen built terraces near the lodge by importing loads of top soil, and planted colorful flower gardens all along them. The cornfield near the lodge became a lake and two other ponds on the property had previously been created.

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Wahkeena circa 1950
In addition to her gardening, Carmen was an avid ornithologist (birdwatcher). She may have acquired an interest in birds from her father, James Chase Hambleton, who, in 1913, was elected the first president of the Columbus Audubon Society.
Over the years, the Warners acquired more land until Wahkeena had grown to 150 acres of tree-covered hills.
Upon her death in 1956, Carmen bequeathed Wahkeena to the Ohio Historical Society
to be used for nature study and as a preserve for birds and other wildlife.
To that end, Wahkeena has provided environmental education for school children, scout groups, garden clubs, and many others for over 50 years.

In 2012, the Ohio Historical Society entered into a management agreement with the Fairfield County  Parks for the day-to-day management and staffing of Wahkeena Nature Preserve. This agreement remains in place today.
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