Kaufman Poor Farm plans facelift, restoration
Posted by : December 18, 2013| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
KAUFMAN–The Kaufman County Historical Commission presented an update on plans to rehabilitate and preserve the county’s historic Poor Farm.
The property is one of the last of its kind, elected officials heard during a luncheon Dec. 10. It is located adjacent to the County Court South Campus and behind the Veterans Memorial Park near the intersection of State Highway 34 and Farm-to-Market 1388.
Currently, the commission is seeking donations to replace old wire fencing at the entrance and along the property line fronting SH 34.
Commemorative black wrought-iron fence panels measuring 8X6 feet are being set up with the help of donations of $500 per panel.
Also, this Saturday (Dec. 21) is the last day to celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas at the farm, with activities beginning at 2 p.m. and ending with a tree lighting at dark. Activities include caroling hay rides, tree decorating, visits with Santa and a variety of children’s activities. And most of all, admission is free, though donations of unwrapped toys are accepted for the children’s shelter, commission secretary Betty Brown announced.
“It’s a good time to celebrate the history of this great county,” Brown said in welcome.
A master plan for the remaining structures and acreage of the working farm established soon after the Civil War in 1869 is being developed.
Marcel Quimby, FAIA or Quimby McCoy Preservation Architecture went over some of the property’s history and future development plans.
With the help of historic and current photographs, Quimby showed a PowerPoint presentation as she reviewed the history of the property.
Soon after the farm opened in 1869 to assist the indigent living in the county, parts of it was used during a typhoid fever epidemic in 1871, including a cemetery for its victims.
In 1881, 408 acres encompassed the property and a working agricultural concern started in 1883.
When the county traded in its clapboard courthouse for a brick one, the former building was moved to the poor farm and used as a barn in 1887, she said.
In 1931, it was the site of a demonstration agricultural program and in 1954, it was converted to a prison farm, which it remained until 1973, when it was closed.
In 1998 it was designated an historical site in the county and in 2012 it was selected as a preservation property.
Quimby explained that the master plan would focus on increasing the farm’s visibility and access with an upgraded entrance coming off SH 34. The addition of comfort stations for visitors and a cultural area to interpret the story of the Poor Farm would be priorities for its rehabilitation and preservation.
In order to interpret the story, she said the historic buildings and/or their character would need to be restored or preserved.
She also suggested an agrarian work area be restored to include kitchens, gardens, orchards, and farm animals.
She showed slides of a drying shed, goat barn and old courthouse building. One slide from the 30s or 40s depicted a corn shucking contest.
She suggested that this work area could incorporate a working community garden and the raising of small animals by FFA groups and a pond.
Reenactments could be staged on the farm, as could camping, picnicking and hiking and fishing activities.
“These are just glimpses of the potential of the benefits the county could reap from the Poor Farm’s restoration,” she said. “Think of the Poor Farm as an historical gem in the rough.”
In the meantime the Kaufman County Historical Commission is seeking details about life on the Poor Farm from county residents who may have photographs, letters, etc. dating back to different periods in the property’s past.
The commission can be reached by calling (469) 376-4121.