Decades ago, Marie Aull gave her land to the Miami Valley, creating National Audubon Society's first nature center in the Midwest. Today as visitors explore the Marie S. Aull Education Center, walk the trails and experience Aullwood's sustainable farm, they discover why Aull's gift is a paragon among nature centers. More than 110,000 people of all ages engage in exciting on-site or outreach programs every year. By nourshing familiarity with nature and sustainable agriculture, Aullwood stimulates many visitors to environmental activism.
Marie Aull donated 70 acres of land to the National Audubon Society in 1957. She had approached John H. Baker, then President of the National Audubon Society, with the idea of creating the first nature center in the Midwest. Marie Aull had a great love for plants and animals. It was her idea to create a nature sanctuary where teachers and children could learn about plants, animals, and ecological concepts. It was her hope that these children would be taught by trained naturalists: people who were knowledgeable and sensitive to the land. Her intention to create the first nature center in the Midwestern United States, was realized with the opening of the Aullwood Audubon Center. Over 25,000 children received free 90-minute thematic guided programs.
In 1962, the 120 acre Antrim Farm adjacent to Aullwood Audubon Center was placed on the market. Mrs. Aull purchased the farm because proposed development would have drained the springs which fed the creek. The creek flows through the center’s land and even through Mrs. Aull’s garden. Mrs. Aull donated a portion of the land to the National Audubon Society. Mrs. Aull envisioned a children’s farm with livestock which children could see, touch and hear, and fields where they could watch crops grow. She felt it was important for people to understand the importance of the family farm in American culture. This facility was operated independently from the Center with a separate staff and budget. It too offered a variety of 90-minute field trips exploring agricultural life.
In 1978, the center and farm were combined into one operation with one staff. The facility was renamed Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm. In 1979, Friends of Aullwood was incorporated to generate greater community and financial support. In accordance with an agreement formalized between Audubon and Friends of Aullwood, Inc., on September 23, 1986, Friends of Aullwood assumed primary responsibility for funding the operation of Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm from Audubon. In 1989, the 120 acre farm was transferred to the Dayton Foundation, with management by Friends of Aullwood.
In 1995, 150 acres were added to Aullwood’s sanctuary through a long-term lease agreement with the Dayton International Airport. This land was converted in Ohio’s largest restored tallgrass prairie. The prairie is named in honor of retired education coordinator, Paul Knoop Jr. At this time Aullwood is no longer leasing the land from the airport though we are trying to reestablish the lease.
To honor Marie Aull, the new $4.3 million education wing was built in 2000, the year of her 103rd birthday. Marie Aull died August 8, 2002, at the age of 105.
In 2012, the multimillion dollar Charity A. Krueger Farm Discovery Center was completed at Aullwood Farm, putting Aullwood 's educational farm on the cutting edge of sustainable education.
Today, Aullwood's farm, center and sanctuary make it one of the premier Audubon sites in the United States.