Heritage Farmstead Museum

Are your cow milking skills a little rusty? How did your last batch of freshly churned butter taste? What about your leather working or corn grinding technique? Was your last cattle branding a successful event? If you need to brush up on your turn of the century farm and home life skills, you might want to grab the kids and head over to Plano’s Heritage Farmstead Museum.

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Middle schooler and FFA member Aiden Burns assists Animal Manager Kris Barndt (carrying “Chicken Nugget”)

Everyday life has changed dramatically since Hunter and Mary Alice Farrell built their home here in 1891 along Plano’s Pitman Creek. After their daughter Ammie Wilson died in 1972, the property was willed over to two separate orphanages that both passed on it.

The Farrell-Wilson house behind caretaker Ernest Sanders and his daughter Ammie (named after Ammie Wilson), circa 1940
The Farrell-Wilson house behind farm manager Ernest Sanders and his daughter Ammie (named after Ammie Wilson), circa 1940 // photo courtesy of Heritage Farmstead Museum

Plano has always been a preservation-minded community and with efforts from prominent families in town and a concerned public, the Victorian era homestead and surrounding acreage was preserved and became the Heritage Farmstead Museum in 1986. Chances are if you attended elementary school in Plano in the late 1980s, you visited the Farmstead as part of your PISD curriculum.

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Cynthia Bohnenblust from Dallasweavers.org teaches a camper how to weave on a loom

While PISD no longer visits the Farmstead like it used to, the Heritage Farmstead Museum is as busy as ever with year-round events designed to teach families just what life was like in 1891. The Farmstead is a working farm with livestock the kids can learn about, such as Hampshire sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and even a Mammoth Jack donkey.

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With several outbuildings (including a period schoolhouse) dedicated to different life skills necessary for farm living, families can learn about gardening and potting; they can see how to tan hides and cure meats; they can view a Surrey carriage in the carriage house; and they can witness the blacksmith’s skills in his hot forge.

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Summer is here, and while the Heritage Farmstead Museum is open for regular visiting hours, they also have several camps to keep kids of all ages busy.

At Pioneer Camp, kids learn all about old time activities like plowing, planting, branding, weaving, caring for livestock and a bit of history in the Farrell House Museum exhibit. Creek Camp is another fun one where campers spend up to an hour and a half walking through and exploring Pitman Creek, talking about plant life and fresh water animal life, and doing fun activities such as boat building and racing. There’s also a Junior Historian Camp where older kids learn more in-depth history and take field trips to other local historical sites. All of the summer camps include milking the Farmstead’s fake cow Buttermilk (a huge hit with the kids) and a wagon ride and water gun battle.

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Kids enjoy exploring Pitman Creek at Heritage Farmstead Museum’s Creek Camp

There are also single-day activities to enjoy this summer. At Wild, Wild, West on July 14th, kids and adults can participate in leather working demos and learn about cattle drives and cattle drive camping. A local cowboy church brings in horses for lasso and roping demos. Events like these give older kids a chance to volunteer over the summer and get in the service hours they need for school or scouting.

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A volunteer demonstrates outdoor cooking techniques to campers

The fun at the Farmstead isn’t just limited to the summertime. The Heritage Farmstead Museum offers special learning opportunities for preschoolers and home school students throughout the year. The new 55+ Exceeding the Limits series hosts monthly events aimed at Plano’s senior population, including presentations on a variety of topics like creative gardening, music, and dance.

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At the Lantern Light Festival in December, the Farmstead is transformed into an old-fashioned, twinkly-lighted, winter wonderland with activities for everyone: candle dipping, a magic lantern show, craft stations, dancers from Arthur Murray Studio and of course, Father Christmas. Springtime on the farm is also a special time, with Easter egg hunts, sheep shearing, and new baby animals being born.

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The Friends of the Farmstead event in June included a catered dinner and concert inside the historic barn // photo by Guy Huntley, Heritage Farmstead Museum

The Heritage Farmstead Museum may teach us all about the past, but it’s conveniently located smack in the middle of Plano, nestled among modern day neighborhoods and shopping centers. So after you’ve grabbed that latte or gotten your nails done, it’s just a short walk next door to step back in time. Your kids will love it and you’ll get an amazing bonding experience with your family. Because while times and technology have changed, families still love spending time together just as much as they did over 100 years ago.

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Aerial view of the Farmstead, circa 1979 // photo courtesy of Heritage Farmstead Museum
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Present-day aerial view of the Farmstead

 

Heritage Farmstead Museum Events >

 

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