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Park Pick: A Sense of Place

Penn Farm harkens back to simpler times with authenticity

By Dennis Gerow

Consider this: You’re driving down an old country road, a road you’ve taken countless times. As you drive along you recall the old barn that once stood under that mott of live oaks, the ghost of an old windmill or the ruin that was once a century-old rock house. Your landscape is constantly changing, and memories of those earlier ones grow distant, then linger, before they disappear.

And yet, deep in the heart of Texas, an old farmstead defies time. Penn Farm sits nestled within the lush woodlands and prairies of Cedar Hill State Park southwest of Dallas. It’s quiet here. You can sense what John Anderson Penn must have felt when he decided to put down roots on this spot in the 1850s: the fertile soil and highly productive tall-grass prairie, the abundant wildlife, the sense of place. It’s a place strong enough to anchor a family for generations.

windmill

Penn Farm is an authentic Texas farm. Preserved, not restored, the farm is a stroll back in time, an instinctive reminder of where we came from, what we’ve endured and where we’ve been. Established shortly before the American Civil War and home to one family for more than 100 years, the site consists of farmhouses, barns, cribs, pens and cabins. It’s a large spread that reveals itself a little at a time, so you can slow down to an easy walk and linger to let your impressions take hold.

The 1918 barn is at its heart, a large, sprawling pole structure with steeply pitched gable roofs that incorporate and protect a 19th century log cabin and an 1870s schoolhouse. Built to support the Penn family’s cattle operation, the barn sheltered livestock and provided storage for hay and grain. These days, as in the past, the barn functions as a magnet for the many bird species that inhabit the area.

The park plays host to the annual Harvest Heritage Festival, and on any particular day it’s not uncommon to find families or school groups exploring the barn and other structures. You might even see young couples posing for engagement photos in front of an old barn door, making sure that the memories last.

For more information, go to tpwd.texas.gov/cedarhill

 

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