In 1898, brothers Otto and Ernst Behrend arrived in Erie from Germany to set-up a paper mill that became the Hammermill Paper Company. Thirty years later, the paper business had done well enough for Otto to begin to look for a country retreat near Erie. In 1920, he purchased a tract that became known as Asbury Farm. Dr. Behrend began to reforest and upgrade the farm fields and in 1931 replaced an older cottage with a Dutch Colonial-style cottage.
Behrend’s country retreat was a working farm with horses and dairy cattle, fields planted in corn, hay, wheat and oats and orchards producing apples, cherries, pears and peaches. The Farm’s produce and dairy products were sold to the Erie Club and local markets.
In life and in death, the Behrend brothers established a reputation for supporting educational endeavors. A portion of Ernst Behrend’s estate was used to found the Penn State Behrend campus. Likewise Otto Behrend, in the 1950’s, donated 10 acres at the corner of 38th Street and Asbury Road, for the construction of an elementary school.
When he died in 1957, Otto, through his will, bequeathed his 100-acre Asbury Farm, cottage, barn (now known as Asbury Barn), fields and orchards to the Millcreek Township School District for educational and recreational uses. Shortly after the receipt of his donation, the School District converted the cottage into Asbury Woods Nature Center. Today we are all grateful for Otto Behrend’s foresight and generosity which established one of Erie’s most treasured public assets – our Asbury Woods.
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