Thursday, April 21, 2016

Retro | Hemp returns to Farmington for 200th

By Martha Elson 


Farmington Historic Plantation off Bardstown Road is hopping on the hemp bandwagon during its 200th-anniversary celebration in 2016, which only makes sense.  Farmington originally was a 550-acre, 19th-century hemp plantation.
The home has been approved to participate in the 2016 Hemp Pilot Program through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and will be growing about an acre-sized demonstration plot for research and educational purposes.
Farmington will hold a Hemp Discovery Day from 4 to 6 p.m. Sat., April 30 at the home, 3033 Bardstown Road at the Watterson Expressway.  The event will include demonstrations, food trucks, live music and home tours.  Preceding the hemp event April 30 will be the home's 50th Annual Plant Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 the new Brand Pavilion, which is available to rent.
To capitalize on the bicentennial, Farmington board members are launching a new campaign to attract more donors and volunteers, promoting the theme "Southern Charm in the Heart of Louisville" and planning a big lineup of other events, too.
Lincoln was here
To some extent, "People under the age of 30 or 40 are simply unaware of Farmington," Robert Brand, board chairman, who used to live nearby, said.
"We hope to really turn things around for the bicentennial," added Jeff Gumer, a retired history teacher and board member. The home is operated by the non-profit Historic Homes Foundation and receives no public money, but it "belongs to the community," Brand says. Youth summer camps and a farmers market (3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays) are held there, and a new initiative involves cultivating "Farmington Grown" produce.
They say what really sets Farmington apart is a three-week visit that future president Abraham Lincoln made there in 1841 -- detailed in a sight and sound exhibit at the visitors center.  For a number of years, there's also been an emphasis on the contributions of nearly 60 enslaved African-Americans who lived in cabins on the property, where other crops and livestock also were raised.
The home is known for its authentic original furnishings and accessories, including a sugar chest, framed portraits, musical instruments, a wooden cradle and John Speed's spectacles.
Famington was built in 1816 for Judge John and Lucy Speed, influential members of the Louisville community.  Lincoln, then 31, visited Farmington during a low point in his life, after he had broken his engagement with Mary Todd Lincoln.   He was there to see his close friend Joshua Speed, whom he met at a general store Joshua and partners had opened in Springfield, Ill.
Lincoln, who had come to Springfield to become a lawyer, accepted an invitation to share a room with Speed over the store.  Lincoln's visit is said to have revived him and influenced his views against slavery.  Joshua's brother, attorney James Speed, would become Lincoln's attorney general.
Bicentennial events
At least six other events are planned at Farmington through October, including three that are considered official bicentennial events.
Those are Summer Jazz at Farmington June 4, featuring jazz and swing music provided by Teddy Abrams and members of the Louisville Orchestra; 17th Annual Evening in the Garden July 23, featuring historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin discussing Lincoln's ties in Kentucky;  and the 2nd Annual Oktoberfest Oct. 7.
A Farmington Derby Social also is planned May 3, the 38th Annual Derby Breakfast to benefit Historic Homes May 7 and the 17th Annual Harvest Fest Oct. 9. For more information, go to or call 452-9920. The home is open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and the grounds are open for self-guided tours with maps from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
Farmington dedication 
Farmington was privately owned until Historic Homes Foundation bought it in 1958 and opened it to the public in 1959.  Henry Drescher had bought Farmington in 1865 and owned the property for 43 years. The Joseph and Margaret Glass Bischoff family owned it from 1908 to 1949.  Family photos in the visitors center provided by Margie Bischoff Magruder include ones of men posing with a threshing machine circa 1920 and Merritt Bischoff, the family's 14th child.
When a public dedication event was held in April 1959, a horse-drawn carriage pulled up in front of the house, and Lincoln's arrival was reenacted by costumed supporters, including Morton Joyes as Lincoln, a Courier-Journal story said.  About 600 people turned out, and speakers included Phillip Davidson, president of the University of Louisville, and Barry Bingham Sr., Courier-Journal publisher and Historic Homes president. Representatives of  National Geographic reportedly were there to do a story.
Bingham said it was not the intention of the foundation to turn Farmington into a musty museum.
"We want it to be, instead, a living symbol of Kentucky tradition," he said.  When Lincoln visited, "the secret voice of the house spoke directly to his troubled spirit, and he never forgot its comforting message...We hope especially that young people will flock here in great numbers."
Reporter Martha Elson can be reached at 502-582-7061 and  Follow her on Twitter at @MarthaElson_cj.

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