Historic home begins new life in new location
Project leaders and community representatives celebrated as a historic Midlothian home arrived at its new location Friday.
The Anderson Farm building will be a focal point in The Farmstead in Midlothian located between North 9th Street and the U.S. Highway 67 access road north of J.A. Vitovsky Elementary School. The project, driven by the nonprofit 360grassroots, Ash Grove, Midlothian city and community leaders and many business sponsors, began with a desire to create a sustainable and community oriented way to save the Anderson farmhouse and barn. 360Grassroots focuses on community revitalization of small towns through the development of intergenerational/mixed use communities like the Farmstead.
See more photos from the event here.
360grassroots plans to make the farmhouse and barns the centerpieces of a new 31-acre, mixed-use development offering community members and visitors unique retail, restaurants and artisan shops, as well as a wedding and event venue, a bed and breakfast and a health spa. The businesses will be located in other restored or historically replicated houses from Ellis County and the surrounding areas, said Amanda Skinner, executive director of The Farmstead project.
Built in the 1890s by John Penn Anderson, the home was passed onto Anderson's son and the family later sold the property to the Gifford-Hill Cement Company that was eventually sold and the property came into Ash Grove's hands. The buildings were located on land owned by Ash Grove that was slotted to be cleared to make way for quarrying.
Ash Grove committed to give the house, barn and other outbuildings to a person or group who would agree to move the house and preserve it for some kind of public use, said Kevin Blankenship, plant manger for Ash Grove Cement Company. The company also agreed to donate land for the buildings to be relocated to out of harm’s way, he said.
But that didn't guarantee the historic building's safety. The Midlothian Historical Society struggled to find antiquity funding to move or restore the buildings and the city of Midlothian was not willing to finance the preservation without a viable plan to maintain them long term, said city council member Jimmie McClure.
“It sat out there so long, it is a miracle it was able to be rescued,” McClure said.
At the Ground Blessing and Parade of Homes on Friday, the Anderson farmhouse and a second historic home were delivered to the site by McMillan Movers crew. The Anderson barn will be part of the Bella Woods wedding venue operated by Darrell May and his wife. They are planning for a building that will be an exterior replica of the Anderson Farm barn constructed with pieces of restored wood from the original barn to be the main building for their venue.
“It has been a big learning experience, but it has been a joy,” May said about the process of preparing the venue that he hopes to have open by the end of the year. “My daughter is waiting on me to finish it to get married. She will be our first wedding.”
The Anderson Farm house will be restored and renovated into a bed and breakfast, Skinner said. The second building already moved to the site will be restored and converted into a health spay, she added. The Farmstead already has 11 buildings from the Ellis County area donated to the site, but is looking for more, she said.
“Our goal is to have 51 specialty shops,” Skinner said. “We are also getting barns, cotton gins, silos.”
The development will also include community gardens, walking trails and places for community activities and relaxation, said Bridget Hawks, vice chair of 360grassroots.
“This is about integration and saving our heritage,” she said. “This will make our city a better place and stand out amongst the Metroplex.”
McClure said she is hopeful and excited to watch the Farmstead develop.
“I'm praying this develops into an opportunity for the community, local businesses, sales tax, and local artisans,” she said. “It is a good idea and we are preserving our history.”
When all three phases of the project are complete, the Farmstead is predicted to generate an estimated $800,000 in annual sales tax revenue, according to 360grassroots information. The development will also meet community development goals outlined for the city in the Garner Report commissioned by Midlothian Economic Development including improve gateways into the city, develop visual and performing arts, expanding the types of businesses in the city and creating a culture of entrepreneurship while preserving the rural feel and values Midlothian residents' desire to preserve.
Getting the development this far required many local people and businesses recognizing the dream to build a place representing where the city is going while saving bits of the past to bring with it to get the project off the ground, Hawks said.
“It's humbling because it's an amazing realization that it takes a village to raise a child or a community to build a community development,” she said. “I'm taking a stand and believing in prosperity. That is not just money; that is the smallest part of it. Everyone deserves to be able to invest in their community. It's about getting to know your neighbor and getting involved in community events. It's unity and community. That is prosperity.”
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.