A Lasting Legacy, Buhl Farm Park
It was the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, the days of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Vanderbilt and Frank H. Buhl ran with those crowds.
He grew up in high society circles of Michigan. His father and uncle both served as mayor of Detroit and his family inter-married with the likes of Henry Ford and Hiram Walker. So what makes a man like this leave the comforts of home? Love; and an opportunity to build an industrial empire and a lasting legacy in a community he learned to call home.
Frank’s father was an inventor in a burgeoning steel mill in Sharon, Pennsylvania. After Frank graduated from Yale University, his father sent him to Sharon on a “temporary” work assignment to learn this new industry. While working in Sharon he met and fell in love with Julia Forker, a native of Mercer County. Although Frank had every desire to return to his family’s fame and fortune in Detroit, Julia refused to leave her beloved “hills of Sharon”. Frank conceded, they stayed, and he built an empire (and a castle) for his lovely bride.
Frank’s Sharon Steel Company became Mercer County’s number one employer for 100 years. Frank eventually sold to JP Morgan’s “Trust” and used the money to pursue land development, creating the towns of Buhl, Idaho; Buhl, Minnesota and Buhl, Alabama. Although a shrewd businessman, he was a world-class philanthropist, donating acreage and buildings back to communities that bear his name. Global scope, Frank was the first American to invest in the Philippines after the Spanish American war and at his death he willed $2 million to France and Belgium to rebuild after the First World War.
However, nowhere was the philanthropy of the Buhls more appreciated than in Mercer County. Locally their generosity included F.H. Buhl Club (then an athletic club for men and boys, now co-ed), Julia Buhl’s Club for Girls, Buhl Library, Buhl Armory (host to USO events during World Wars), Christian H. Buhl Hospital (predecessor to Sharon Regional Hospital), St. John’s Episcopal Church, Oakwood Cemetery, and most notably, Buhl Farm Park, a 300-acre community park which includes the Buhlland Golf Course, the world’s only free golf course. They donated coats, hats, glasses, and over 1400 tonsillectomies to area children.
The legacy lives. Today, Frank and Julia’s legacy lives on for residents and visitors of Mercer County to enjoy. Through careful planning and a perpetual endowment many of the Buhl endeavors continue to this day under the care of the Buhl Trustees.
Buhl Farm Park showcases the Buhl Timblin Casino which underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2010. The park features the Julia F. Buhl Memorial garden, a performing Arts Center (host to free summertime outdoor concerts), fishing, picnic shelters, playgrounds, a swimming pool, tennis courts, baseball diamond, paracourse fitness trail, gazebo, kite field, disk golf and most notably, thanks to the endowment of the Buhl, still the only free 9-hole golf course in the world.
Thousands of area residents and visitors flock to Buhl Farm Park every year on Labor Day to enjoy the Buhl Day festivities. The day includes a 5k Run, parade, food vendors, live performances, art show, car cruise, golf tournament, tennis tournament, and an annual tribute to Frank and Julia Buhl.