What I most love about Hartland is its history.
There is likely no community anywhere that owes so much of what it is today to the dreams of one man nearly a hundred years ago.
In Hartland’s case, this man is J. Robert Crouse, a descendant of the Crouse brothers, who settled in the Hartland area in the mid-1800s.
In 1928, J. Robert Crouse had retired and decided to do something for the area in which he was born. Together with educators and sociologists, Crouse came up with the Hartland Area Project.
He envisioned creating a community as an ongoing social experiment, the aim of which was to “transfer ideals worked out through a highly socialized industrial experience to rural life.”
He knew such a community couldn’t be created and sustained on taxes alone, so in 1932 he established three foundations (the Hartland School Foundation, the Heartland Foundation, and the Hartland Area Educational Loan Fund), funded with $500,000 — or a little over $8 million in 2015 dollars — to support his dream.
It’s a fascinating history, and you can read a whole lot more about it by clicking here.
And here, in no particular order, are the 10 things I love about Hartland:
1. Memorial Day Parade
One of the biggest and best parades in Livingston County, it’s also one of the most photogenic.
I especially love this photo of the parade, taken a few years back by the talented area photographer/ artist Susan Pominville.
2. Cromaine Library
The Cromaine District Library was built in 1927, and donated to the Hartland Consolidated Schools district by J. Robert Crouse and his uncle, Henry A. Tremaine. The last names of the two men were combined to become “Cromaine.” The building is beautiful, and the library remains a community hub.
3. Caroselli Aquatic Center
Named after former Hartland Superintendent Pete Caroselli, this aquatic center is a mini water park. It’s colorful and wet and whole lot of fun; my kid has spent a lot of hours enjoying it with his friends.
4. Parshallville Cider Mill
Technically, it’s Tom Walker’s Grist Mill, a Michigan Historic Site, but everyone calls it the Parshallville Cider Mill. It’s located in Hartland Township’s second settlement area. At 130-plus years, it’s one of just a few water-powered mills left in Michigan. It’s a popular destination in the fall, selling cider, donuts, and, of course, apples.
5. Spicer’s Orchards
Located on Clyde Road, Spicer’s is a must for cider, apples and donuts in the fall. It’s also full of activities and attractions for kids. Did you know that Spicer’s also has a winery and wine tasting room?
Named in honor of Henry David Thoreau’s “Waldenwoods,” Hartland’s version has cottages and camping and a lake and tons of activities. What I love most about Waldenwoods, though, is the conference center. It’s a beautiful, Craftsman building with dark woodwork and large fireplaces, a throwback to another time, designed to accommodate indoor activities while keeping participants fully connected to the outdoors with its magnificent walls of windows.
7. The Hartland Settlement Area
You really get a feel for how life used to be when you’re in the Hartland settlement area. Some of the houses in the small area date back to the 1800s.
8. Hartland Music Hall
Located on Avon Street in the Hartland settlement area, the Hartland Music Hall was named an official historic site by the Michigan Historical Commission. It’s home to the Hartland Players, the annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah” every December, and other community events and private weddings. Did you know that this past holiday season saw the 83rd performance of “Messiah”?
9. Florence B. Dearing Museum
With the aim of preserving and exhibiting relics of rural home and farm life from the Hartland area, Florence B. Dearing began collected items in 1958. The museum opened to the public in 1959, and it was named for its founder in 1960. Located at the corner of Avon and Crouse streets in the Hartland settlement area, it’s an amazing step back in time. It’s also home base for the Hartland Historical Society. To find out more about it, click here. http://www.hartlandareahistory.org/index.htm
10. Driving through the area on U.S. 23
I’ve lived in Livingston County for more than 25 years, and I can still remember the first time I took note of how beautiful the Hartland area looks from the freeway. You get a real feel for the rolling nature of its terrain.
5 things I don’t like about Hartland
I am always amazed at how unattractive M-59 is on either side of U.S. 23. The Jurassic Park-esque electric towers, the strip malls, the SPUI intersection — you’d never know that off this ugly strip of roadway lies one of the most beautiful communities in Livingston County.
2. Hartland’s SPUI
The single point urban interchange (SPUI), the first ever built in Michigan, helps move traffic along, but it’s got to be one of the ugliest interchanges I’ve ever seen. Maybe a roundabout would have been a more attractive device.
3. The traffic at M-59 and U.S. 23
Anyone driving through this area at any time of the day will agree that the traffic is a nightmare. Check out this video from Oct. 11, 2013:
4. No downtown identity
Hartland suffers from the same affliction as Novi — no downtown identity. It’s settlement area is lovely and quaint, but the business of Hartland happens elsewhere.
5. The Hartland Township Hall
The center of government is the Hartland Township Hall on Clark Road, a modern, sprawling building that stands in stark contrast to the historic nature of the community. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a beautiful building, but instead of paying homage to Hartland’s history and its abundance of historic architecture, it instead screams suburban sprawl.
So, what do you love and not love about Hartland?