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On Feb. 22, 1999, hundreds of villagers attended the auction of Whitehall Farm at the Holiday Inn in Springfield. Some stayed inside the building while others rallied and sang outside, as shown above. (YS News archive photo by Patti Dallas)

News from the Past | Villagers save Whitehall Farm

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2024 marks a heroic anniversary. Twenty-five years ago, against insurmountable odds, Yellow Springs residents accomplished what many thought was impossible.

In February 1999, as the result of communitywide activism and campaigning, villagers raised $1.2 million to save the 940-acre Whitehall Farm from development.

Located on U.S. 68 North, between Yellow Springs and Young’s Dairy, the farmland was set to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. According to past News reporting, villagers feared that the land — which had been exclusively used for crop rotation since the early 1800s — would be engulfed by housing tracts or strip malls, should it fall into enterprising hands wishing to double the size of the village.

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Villagers came together, raised enough money from private and local governments in just six weeks, and used those funds to purchase a conservation easement on the property, which helped local residents David and Sharen Neuhardt — who already owned the Whitehall mansion and a small parcel of the farm — buy its entirety at auction for $3.275 million.

Groups big and small, including the Farmland Preservation Task Force, a group of private individuals and public officials; the Trust for Public Land, a national farmland preservation organization; Miami Township Trustees; Greene County Commissioners; Village Council members; the local activist group Citizens to Save Our Town and Farmland; and, notably, Tecumseh Land Trust, all joined forces in securing the purchase.

But past reports indicate that a groundswell of individual concerned citizens is what led to Whitehall’s preservation.

Signs checkered Yellow Springs yards, a “corn-o-meter” erected on the wall of Deaton’s Hardware store, now Yellow Springs Hardware, daily tracked the community’s fundraising efforts, eight-foot-tall “NO SPRAWL” letters made by Jim Mayer lined the highway, bake sales were staged, a 13-hour concert at Antioch College’s Kelly Hall raised $7,000, a Mills Lawn Elementary student raised $7 at lunchtime to “save the cows,” and much, much more was done to save the farm. 

“This is a story about one community’s attempt to preserve a sacred space, a diminishing resource and a way of life,” News editor Amy Harper wrote in an editorial on Feb. 25, 1999. “It’s about how government and private citizens joined forces to achieve a common goal. It’s about how ordinary people can make things happen if they put their minds to it.”

—YS News staff

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