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Bluffton's 100 year-old love affair with Harmon Field

Click HERE to open a 236-page booklet in the Bluffton Public Library Digital Archive Collection. The booklet, “The Harmon Field Story,” provides rare photos of the early days of Harmon Field plus a detailed history of the Harmon Foundation.

In its infancy it was a community park

By Fred Steiner

A Bluffton fixture turns 100 this fall, and it is as vibrant today as it was during its 1924 inaugural year. This centenarian goes by the name “Harmon Field.” However, in its beginning it was much, much, more than simply a high school football field, as it was originally created as a village park.

Aging well, while its usage experienced many changes in 100 years, it continues as one of the most popular athletic hangouts for Bluffton residents from toddlers to the most senior of senior citizens. 

While witnessing huge wins and some heart-throbbing defeats, Harmon Field also has experienced at least one on-the-field marriage proposal (probably more), ashes spread on the field from one former athlete (probably more), three different press boxes and one generation in the 1930s watching. Thanksgiving Day games between Bluffton and Pandora High School. We’ve lost count of scoreboards coming and going at the field.

While known best as the football field for the Bluffton High School Pirates, it served this community in countless ways since Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States.

But first, let’s examine how it came to be and why it’s called Harmon Field, as only a handful of residents can actually explain its origins. As this story unfolds viewers will begin to understand how the Bluffton community appears to accomplish so many things. 

Harmon Foundation 
Bluffton’s Harmon Field is one of nine in Ohio, and one of 50 in the United States, each constructed between 1924 and 1926. Other Ohio fields are in Wapakoneta, Bellefontaine, Bucyrus, Sidney, Miamisburg, Fremont, Oberlin and Paulding.

Created by the Harmon Foundation of New York City, its intention provided community parks, or playgrounds, in qualifying “growing” villages and cities across the United States.

The theory on which the Harmon Foundation was inaugurated as a family trust was the “desirability of interesting one’s children raised under modern conditions in their responsibility to the social structure.” Each Harmon grant required that the land be deeded in perpetuity for recreation uses.

In 1924 the foundation announced the availability of $100,000 toward the purchases of 50 play tracks in rapidly growing communities throughout the United States. Qualifiers had to have at least 3,000 population – as an interesting note, Bluffton’s 1920 census reported 1,950 residents – and show a growth of 30 percent or more since 1900. No tract of less than two acres would be considered and not more than $2,000 would be made available to any one town. The formal applications must have the endorsement of the village mayor or president of the board of education. 

See the full story HERE at