In 1931, Dr. Frank Warner of Columbus gave his new bride, Carmen, an unusual wedding present: ninety-four acres of old farmland in southern Fairfield County. Mrs. Warner named her estate Wahkeena – a Yakama Indian word meaning “most beautiful” – after a waterfall she had seen 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 build a lodge and garage. The old hog house became a charming guest house, while the smokehouse became a potting shed, an important part of Mrs. Warner’s gardening plans.
Around their new buildings, the Warners planted more that 100,000 trees on the hillsides and around the lodge. Mrs. Warner 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; two other ponds were also created.
Over the years, the Warners acquired more property until Wahkeena had grown to 150 acres of tree-covered hills.
Mrs. Warner bequeathed Wahkeena to the Ohio Historical Society in 1957 “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 Historical Parks for the day-to-day management and staffing of Wahkeena Nature Preserve. This agreement remains in place today.