One Man's Dream


Behind every idea such as the Hartland Area Project is a personality. In this case it was Mr. J. Robert Crouse, Sr. who was born in the village of Hartland. As a small boy he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with his parents. Later he graduated from the University of Michigan. His fortune was made through a successful business partnership, in the electrical and lighting industry, with his father, Mr. J.B. Crouse, and uncle, Mr. H.A. Tremaine. After retiring from active business in 1928, Mr. Crouse felt he wanted to do something of value for his native community. He gathered together educators and sociologists, and the Hartland Area Project was conceived.

The Hartland Area Project is an ongoing social experiment. It is an attempt to transfer ideals worked out through a highly socialized industrial experience to rural life. The industrial ideal was "Friendly Association for Wholehearted Service" which in its application to rural life has come to mean "Friendly Association for Community Servic". This ideal applies to all activities of the Hartland Area Project. The main objective is as follows:

"The Hartland Area Project is an effort to lay out a district in a typical rural community with a village center, containing an ultimate school population of about 1,000 children in all grades and a total population of about 4,000, and to make available to this group, with generous adequacy, all the creative and constructive social and educational influences, to the end of more rapidly and effectively evolving a richer and more abundant individual and community life. It would be comparable in the social field to intensive research and development work carried on by great industries for material progress, in contrast with social progress, and as such will always be planning and experimenting on the frontiers of social organization and progress."

Crouse felt that the Project, "will very likely be in advance of public opinion and will be beyond the willingness or ability of the community to undertake on the basis of taxes". Therefore, to coordinate his Project, Crouse created three foundations: the Hartland School Foundation, The Heartland Foundation and the Hartland Area Educational Loan Fund. In 1932, he noted that there was $500,000.00 available to fund them. The money would be used to seed activities of the Project. When an activity had gained public acceptance and success, supporting funds from the foundations would be gradually withdrawn.