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Art, Nature and History Converge at Rhoneymeade Sculpture Garden

by and on July 16, 2018 5:00 AM

CENTRE HALL — Tucked away along Route 45, between Boalsburg and Centre Hall proper, lies a charming oasis where agriculture, history, nature and art intersect in an informal, yet purposefully designed, setting. 

“Sculpture garden, arboretum, historic house and farm, all in one. It sounds weird in the abstract, but once you get here, it all blends together and makes sense,” said James Lesher, executive director of Rhoneymeade Sculpture Garden and Arboretum.

Rhoneymeade — the name loosely translates from German to mean “Rhone’s Meadow” — is a nonprofit organization striving to honor two legacies: The agricultural and historic legacy of the Rhone family who originally inhabited the farm, and the contemporary, artistic legacy of the property’s last private occupant, Dr. Richard Morgan.

The Rhone legacy dates back to 1794, when Michael Rhone first purchased the farmland that would remain in the Rhone family for more than a century. Michael Rhone’s grandson, Leonard Rhone, would come to have a profound impact on Centre County and Pennsylvania agricultural history after taking over the family farm in 1864. He became an integral figure in the Pennsylvania Grange Movement, bringing together farmers from across the state for gatherings at various locations before eventually putting together the signature event that would become his biggest and most lasting contribution to the area — the founding of the Centre County Grange Fair in 1874.

Upon his death in 1917, Leonard Rhone’s two daughters took over the farm, leasing it to childhood friends. A tragic barn fire in 1937 led them to sell the property to the Rev. Roy Corman, who rented it to the Rimmey family. Three generations of Rimmeys went on to inhabit the farm, right up until Morgan purchased the property in 1984.

“When Richard came along, he wasn’t a farmer per se; he was a retired professor who had artistic and horticultural ambitions,” Lesher said.

Morgan went to work restoring and modernizing the brick Georgian-style home that Leonard Rhone helped to build in 1853. The house is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, and served as Morgan’s private residence until 2014.

In 1986, Morgan signed the first conservation easement in Centre County with Clearwater Conservancy, permanently protecting the property’s expansive 150 acres from development. He also devoted much of his time to both the creation and collection of sculptures and other artwork.

“He liked to work in marble, which he brought back in the trunk of his car from Vermont, where his family vacation home was,” Lesher said. “He also loved the bronze casting process a lot.”

Morgan began to place the sculptures outside in the gardens, and in the early 1990s he began to open up the grounds to the public once a month. Lesher began doing some landscaping and gardening for Morgan in 1995.

“I took a shine to what he was doing,” he said. “I thought it was neat; even then I could tell he was trying to do something different with the sculpture garden, and I liked the house.”

By 2014, Morgan was no longer able to remain in the house, and he passed away in 2015. Rhoneymeade now continues to honor both his and Leonard Rhone’s legacies in many ways.

Even as its fields continue to operate as a working organic farm, the farmhouse and the 6-acre plot of land surrounding it are now open to the public free of charge every weekend from April through October. The first story of the house serves as a gallery of sorts, with paintings from Morgan’s collection adorning the walls. The grounds hold almost 30 sculptures made of various materials, including metal, wood, bronze, ceramic and marble, scattered across the property.

Guests visiting Rhoneymeade can first stop into the welcome center and art studio, a wooden building constructed in 1996 from old timbers from the nearby General Potter Farm. There, visitors can pick up maps for self-guided tours of the sculptures and the trees. Many trees are marked with identifying signage, and there are at least six trees on the property that date back to Leonard Rhone’s time on the farm.

The grounds not only include interesting vegetation and sculptures, but also feature benches, gazebos and arbors thoughtfully placed throughout. One highlight of a walk through the grounds comes at the highest point on the property, with its sweeping views of Penns Valley and Mount Nittany.

Throughout the year, Rhoneymeade plays host to a variety of special events, including summer art camps for teens, homesteading workshops, a pig roast in the fall, the Wintermarket in December, bird walks, pop-up art classes and, this year, even a wedding and a locavore dinner. Lesher said he likes to see people using the grounds in creative ways and enjoying the landscape.

For more information about Rhoneymeade, visit in person at 177 Rimmey Road in Centre Hall, or online at

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Karen Walker
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