In April, the Plano City Council gave preservationists until May 11 to raise the one million dollars needed to cover the restoration costs for the 1860s-era home – which is located off Windhaven Parkway – without the need for city funds. To date, the group has raised approximately $500,000. The group had been seeking a match from the city to begin the restoration process at the home’s original location.
Plano’s founding family ancestors, or legacy families, joined farmstead representatives and supporters at the meeting and outlined the connection that the house holds with Plano’s early years.
[The Collinwood project] is a grassroots project … [and] is a collaboration of Plano citizens, volunteers, preservation experts, heritage groups, legacy families and donors, and they are all passionate about saving Plano’s history, which is what we’re all about too,” said M’Lou Hyttinen, executive director of the Heritage Farmstead Museum.
Because the house is located in future Windhaven Park, council members have wondered how the house would survive in a public area. Council members and city staff also raised questions about security and what it would cost to maintain the home, as well as who would be responsible for its maintenance.
Original drafts of Windhaven Park had included the addition of a pavilion adjacent to the Collinwood House. Preservationists now have the option to move the house to the Haggard Farm for storage until needed funds can be raised to restore it.
Resident Marianne Wells said she and others in the preservation group did not get the chance to explain the historical significance of the house to staff during the park’s design phase. Had that taken place, Wells said the park’s plan would have included accommodations for the house.
“Three years ago, the park department was presented with a golden opportunity – to design a park around a 150-year-old house sitting on more than 100 acres of its original land grant,” said Wells. “Needless to say, any house in Texas that’s 150 years old is historically significant. From public records and ... journals, we found out that the Collinwood House and the land it stands on intersected the lives of nearly half the families chronicled in early years.”
Councilman Pat Miner said he likes to see structures like these preserved but didn’t find much historical value in the run-down house, and stressed the fact that the city did not have funds allocated to go toward its renovations.
“It’s always about the money. This isn’t a [one] million dollar project, it’s an ongoing [project],” Councilman Pat Gallagher said. “I don’t want to disappoint legacy families, but this project worries me because there are … literally thousands of people who want that park opened. That’s the competition – this group of passionate, caring historians versus a group of hungry residents [and] taxpayers who want a new park that they were promised a long time ago.”
Councilman David Downs asked what it would cost to give the group time to raise more funds. Factoring in the wait time for receiving the needed funds and the time it would take to incorporate the house into the city’s master plan, Parks and Recreation Director Amy Fortenberry said it would set Windhaven Park back three years.
Still, proponents for the restoration said all residents of the city would benefit from the wait and the glimpse into Plano’s history that it could eventually provide.
“I value and appreciate the rich history of Plano. The legacy of Plano is a group of brave settlers,” said Ginger Harrington, whose great-great grandfather built the Collinwood House. "It’s our obligation to provide our current residents with a sense of what that time was like. This would provide this for our citizens.”