Introduction to Lodge Spirit

An appreciation of and a love for nature is a rewarding gift.  It is hoped that this volume can help you – and those you influence – become more enriched from the rewards nature offers.  It is my response to Ernest Thompson Seton’s counsel, “You must in some sort note it down and pass it on to another way seeker.”

I write this work down because I am apparently the last legacy of those who were early Science Club members and spent time at Look About Lodge in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s.  It is a story that needs to be documented, because it is an important part of Greater Cleveland’s history.  I consider it my responsibility to “note it down and pass it on.”

This is the story of today’s Look About Lodge, supported by an overview of our country’s commitment to nature appreciation.  Section I introduces you to the Cleveland Natural Science Club, which created Look About Lodge.  Sections II and III put the Club’s founding in the context of the nature appreciation movement, in part through summarizing the lives of six naturalists from the 1700s and 1800s. Section IV covers the details of the Look About Lodges.  Section V describes the life and activities of the Club that built Look About Lodge, and then Section VI is a time line to tie it all together.

Today’s Look About Lodge is an enchanting place in which to receive nature enrichment.  It was designed as a clubhouse with two purposes.  First, it was a base from which to study – and to educate others – about nature.  In addition, it was also a retreat in which to commune with nature.

Today’s medical science has determined that nature enriches a person by allowing the release of tension and a feeling of enjoyment.  Think about this next time you go for a walk in the woods.

One question we might ask is: What prompted the interest in nature and conservation in the early nineteen hundreds?  We will never know for sure, but it’s a pretty good guess that the naturalists of the 1800s played a key role.

This compilation of facts – and memories – on Look About Lodge and nature appreciation began with “Notes From The Past,” reflections that were written for the Cleveland Natural Science Club’s 81st Anniversary Dinner in May of 2004.  An excerpt from those “Notes” follows:

Notes From The Past

Some of my most vivid, and pleasant, memories are of my early years at Look About Lodge during the 1940s.  I also enjoyed outings to many of the Cleveland’s Metroparks, including the South Chagrin, North Chagrin, and Euclid Creek (we called it Bluestone) Reservations.  Throughout my life, I have thought frequently about The Lodge and the events that gave me a love of nature. 

As a kid I drank in the atmosphere – the smell of the hemlocks, the ever-present aroma of chestnut logs, the sounds of the owls at night and song birds during the day.  I regret that as an enthusiastic kid I was so mesmerized by the moods that I didn’t form more detailed memories of the activities that the Lodge was built to house. 

From the perspective of an elder, it is perhaps easier to understand the present by knowing what – and who – went before.  Such knowledge can enrich your own experiences, enhance your appreciation, and expand your enjoyment of life!

These notations on Look About Lodge and The Cleveland Natural Science Club are provided by one who lived – and was enriched by – many of the early years!  I hope they will enrich your life a little.  May these memories give you – a nature-loving Lodge visitor – a better understanding of this special place!

“I regret not consistently following the counsel of John Burroughs[1].  So I recommend his advice to all:

‘I come here often to find myself – It is so easy to get lost in the world!’

It is unfortunate that my generation, the children of The Cleveland Natural Science Club’s founders and early members, didn’t do more to avoid being the “Last Child In The Woods”.[2]  I ask that you respect this building’s history by leaving your impressions, and your photos, so others can be inspired!

May these notations on Look About Lodge and The Cleveland Natural Science Club enrich your experiences in this unique sanctuary.  And may they enhance the spirit of nature appreciation and conservation in you plus others whom you influence.


I surmise that the most logical answer as to what prompted this country’s interest in nature and conservation is that it was motivated by John Muir and Ernest Thompson Seton, and enhanced by the writings of John Burroughs.

“In 1900, a wilderness craze was sweeping the country. Hiking and mountaineering were in fashion. The Audubon Society and the Sierra Club had recently been formed. People were fleeing the cities, heading for ‘the great outdoors.’”

The return to nature was widespread in the early 1900s.  People living in cities decided that they had lost something and they wanted it back.  What they had lost was the real wilderness. They wanted to pack up and go camping overnight and to climb serious mountains.

For the first time, people began talking about nature conservation.  Muir saw in the “back to nature” craze recruits for his campaign to preserve the wilderness. “Even the scenery habit in its most artificial forms,” he wrote, “mixed with spectacles, silliness, and kodaks, its devotees arrayed more gorgeously than scarlet tanagers – even this is encouraging, and may well be a hopeful sign of the times.”

Muir saw the good side of this and was an optimistic, so he found reason for hope.

In 1900, America boasted five national parks; and there were still millions of acres of untouched wilderness. The environmental movement Muir championed found support in Washington. That year, Congress for the first time passed legislation protecting wildlife that was in danger of extinction. And, the Senate finally moved to protect the buffalo. At that time, there were only 400 left on the entire continent.

The founding Science Club members were educators who had chosen to include the natural sciences as part of their teaching career.  So why this great interest?

As I began studying Earnest Thompson Seton, with whom I was already somewhat familiar, more extensively it proved to be very enlightening.  And then there was John Muir, whom I learned about later in my life.  It was interesting to note that both of these naturalists had done quite a bit of writing.

Because birds are the most prevalent examples of nature for many people, I also looked into the life of John Audubon.  He, too, recognized the need to set aside land for wildlife habitat and nature preservation.  As an artist, Audubon undoubtedly influenced those who were youngsters in the first two decades of the 1900s.  John Bartram was important to the botanical history of our country, so I delved a little into his background.

Thus, I offer the brief histories of these naturalists as background or context into why the Science Club and then Look About Lodge came into being.  If you are interested in nature – and why else would you be reading this book – I think you will find these men’s stories intriguing.

Like John Burroughs, the inclination to write came to me well after childhood.  Except that my proclivity was practical – writing technical literature and marketing materials for manufacturers – while John Burroughs was truly inspirational.

Among other challenges in school, I disliked memorizing dates in history.  So it is with somewhat of an apology that I have included numerous dates in this volume.  This was done to provide reference points in the development of nature appreciation, the Cleveland Natural Science Club, and Look About Lodge.

I hereby direct that if any student reads this book for an academic purpose, the teacher is not to take off any credit for dates not remembered.

A New Theory of Relativity

When you ask almost any American to name their favorite – or most admired – sports figure, most would have a ready answer.  When you can ask any American to name their most admired naturalist, and they can give an answer, then we will be close to giving nature the awareness and respect it deserves.

In my recent adult life, I would probably name John Muir first.  That’s because Muir came into my life about two decades ago during our family’s first trip to Yosemite National Park – and he was ever present during our three successive trips there.

I would also name Ernst Thompson Seton.  He was among the first to kindle my nature appreciation.  The date noted inside the cover of my Lives of the Hunted[3] (which was my father’s) is Thanksgiving, 1901.

Wild Animals I Have Known, and Lives of the Hunted were two childhood books that had a strong impact on me.  They provided keen insight into the world of nature and wild animals that was of great interest.

Most children in Greater Cleveland would name the naturalist of their closest Cleveland Metroparks nature center as their favorite.  That’s because that naturalist impressed them with a hands-on knowledge of nature that is not readily available in a normal classroom curriculum – or from most parents.

In Greater Cleveland – and in the eastern counties of Lake and Geauga – most children visit a park system during the course of their school studies.  Many children also attend park system or Natural History Museum sponsored programs with their parents.

We in Greater Cleveland are not unique in having parks and a museum of natural history.  We are, however, unique in the quality and accessibility of these institutions.

Research from many sources has been used to compile this book.  Since writing “Notes From The Past”, my memories and understanding of the Lodge have been enhanced by reading the historical documents that remain from the early years of the Cleveland Natural Science Club.  My positive sentiments and thankful gratitude for my nature appreciation have been intensified.

Both my academic and experiential education validate that knowing a person’s background is key to understanding that person.  Thus, in this book I have included the significant facts about some of the people known to be major influences on nature appreciation, and who probably influenced the builders of the inspirational place we call Look About Lodge.

As noted in the introduction to Section III, the Washarn-Langford-Doane Expedition that led to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park was financed by its members.  It is interesting that the building and furnishing of today’s Look About Lodge was also financed by the Cleveland Natural Science Club membership, albeit with help from a WPA grant.

It can also be argued that the early educational efforts of the Cleveland Natural Science Club inspired today’s nationally recognized and award winning Cleveland Metroparks Outdoor Education Program.

As elders, we frequently reflect on our earlier experiences.  The emotions imbued in my early years from the influence of Science Club members and the atmosphere of Look About Lodge have grown stronger.  I am grateful that circumstances have allowed me to return to the Lodge and to gather more facts about the building and the organization that so heavily influenced my formative years.

In this volume, I offer my experiences and insights on the Lodge, plus insights into who and what lead to creation of the Lodge.  As apparently the last known living legacy of the Lodge’s early years, I hope this information will help foster a fresh nature awakening in you, your family, and in your friends.

If you haven’t already done so, please visit Look About Lodge.  Call first, it’s not always open.  It offers an inspiring atmosphere from which to commune with, and to study, nature.  The Lodge surrounds you with the logs from which it was built.  You may still be able to smell the chestnut fragrance which was predominant seventy plus years ago.  You should definitely walk along the hemlock-lined trail that borders the Lodge to the south.

You can admire the lawn in front of the east porch that gently slopes down to the woods.  You can also enjoy the lawn that extends to the west, and maybe even have a bite to eat at the picnic tables by the four sided fireplace that are just beyond the west lawn.



[1] Popular American essayist and nature writer during the late 1800’s.  See Chapter II.

[2]Last Child In The Woods; Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” by Richard Louv; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 2005

[3] By Ernst Thompson Seton.

[4]  By this time, my wife and I were in our 60s.

 

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