Foundation to transform city's 'crown jewel' into an education center

For years, Grapevine's historic Nash Farm has been home to a handful of animals and the home away from home for area residents interested in the city's farming heritage.

Now plans by the Grapevine Heritage Foundation are seeking to attract more visitors to the historic farmstead — and maybe even some sheep.

Historic farmstead

Nash Farm sits on 5.2 acres of land at the corner of Homestead Lane, Ball and College streets, just blocks away from the city's historic downtown. City leaders have grand visions of bringing it into the fold of a museum district being planned within the Cotton Belt Railroad District, but a number of decisions must first be made.

The foundation's board of directors, which oversees the farm, is considering plans to help preserve the city's farming heritage, including moving two historic buildings to the property, installing perimeter fencing along with the addition of heritage breed animals.

"It was meant to provide a place where people can take a step back in time to see what life was like for a farm family in that period of time," board member Melva Stanfield said. Long-term restoration

History records indicate Thomas and Elizabeth Nash owned 640 acres during the 1920s. The original farmhouse, barn and family plot sit at 626 Ball St.

In the early 2000s, the foundation hired Lonn Taylor, a former museum curator and historian with the Smithsonian Institution, to develop a plan for the farm. In 2007 it restored the farmhouse to its original appearance, then added a white picket fence, smokehouse and chicken coop.

The foundation's board of directors are now considering plans to turn the farmhouse into a museum by moving two city-owned historic buildings — Estill Cottage at East Texas Street and Soil Conservation Service Office at Hudgins Street — to Nash Farm. They also discussed furnishing the farmhouse after many visitors commented about the lack of furniture.

"That is part of what's driving the need for additional space, to have additional buildings and educational things so that people would continue to come back time after time," Stanfield said.

In the past month, Grapevine residents have voiced their opinions at public meetings regarding the plans. Some wanted the buildings to blend in with the farm, while others expressed concerns that moving the buildings to Nash Farm would distract from the farmhouse.

The 1870 Estill Cottage and the 1930s Soil Conservation Service Office are both period appropriate to Nash Farm, said David Klempin, the city's historic preservation officer.

The 732-square-foot cottage would serve as the main entrance to the farm and include offices, a library, exhibits and an information center. The 600-square-foot office would include a classroom, meeting spaces, exhibits and storage area. It could cost the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau about $23,000 to move both buildings to the Nash Farm property.

Nash Farm manager Jim Lauderdale wants to add heritage breed cattle and Gulf Coast sheep to the farm, but has not yet decided how many. Nash Farm is currently home to two cats, 14 Speckled Sussex chickens and a cow named Gertie.

Plans include replacing the existing fencing with 5-foot perimeter fencing as a move to secure the animals and allow them to roam free at night. Options are period appropriate, from an ornamental wrought iron fence to a combination of wooden boards, posts and woven barbed wire fence.

Additional parking spaces along Homestead Lane are being considered. Nash Farm is open from dawn to dusk, but the foundation is considering changing hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday with expanded hours for events and activities. Admission will remain free for self-guided tours, but "farmhand" or volunteer-guided and field trip tours will continue fee-based.

Future of Nash Farm

Nash Farm volunteer Ross Bannister looks forward to wearing period clothing as a farmhand, but expressed concern Nash Farm would become a tourist attraction if fees are charged, and snacks and beverages are sold at the pole barn.

"Nash Farm, more than anything, is like the Grapevine Botanical Gardens just down the street, which is an open-access, family-friendly treasure that can be explored and enjoyed and experienced in a unique way," he said.

The foundation and Nash Farm Committee were scheduled to discuss plans at their April 18 meeting. They plan to make a recommendation to the City Council.

Board chairman Curtis Ratliff said it may take more than one meeting to reach an agreement on the future of Grapevine's "crown jewel."

"I have always had a passion about Nash Farm and what it represents to the fabric of Grapevine's history [and] farming in general," he said. "Nash Farm is just the one identifiable substance that we can look at, we can feel and touch, that hopefully represents what farming was like in the late 1800s."