Bessie Heard dedicated years of her life to philanthropic efforts throughout the McKinney area, helping plant hackberry trees along downtown streets and establishing an American Red Cross chapter during World War I. However, she accomplished her greatest feat in 1967 when the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary opened to the public. With 289 acres of rolling space, the sanctuary functions as a testament to the diversity of local flora and fauna, educating visitors and urging them to protect those species for future generations.
More than 6.5 miles of unpaved hiking trails wind throughout the sanctuary, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in habitats that range from tall-grass prairie to limestone slopes. The grounds shelter more than 150 varieties of wildflowers and plants, as well as more than 240 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In addition to the trails, the sanctuary also features an extensive garden of native trees, grasses, and perennials, as well as a treetop ropes course (reservation required; additional fees apply). Indoors, interactive exhibits and collections impart valuable information on north-Texan geology, marine life, and venomous snakes.
McKinney, Texas’s Chestnut Square Historic Village recreates life from 1850-1930 on a campus that features six historic houses, a one-room schoolhouse, a chapel, and a general store. The surrounding buildings also include a blacksmith shop, a smoke house, and a chapel, all filled with period artifacts from the 19th century. Visit during a Living History Day to see costumed actors farming, baking, embroidering cushions, or tending to the old-fashioned gardens. Visitors can even step inside the old schoolhouse for a lesson on the region’s history or argue in favor of putting James A. Garfield on every piece of U.S. currency.
For a more in-depth look at the square, follow a guide on a daytime tour, which delves into the buildings’ pasts. On the Village’s haunted tours, you can try to catch a glimpse of an apparition with a lantern light. Patrons can get an additional taste of the past at the weekly farmers market, which showcases fresh vegetables and is visited by Chester the Cat, the square’s resident feline who normally hangs out at Dixie’s Store.
To stroll the grounds of The Heritage Farmstead Museum is to walk into a living vestige of the past. A turn about the 4.5-acre property reveals a blacksmith shop and bookshelves filled with Victorian-era tomes. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, these grounds are dedicated to preserving turn-of-the-century Texas Blackland Prairie culture.
The museum's rich history begins with businessman Hunter Farrell, who built the main house for his wife, Mary Alice, more than a century ago. Since being passed down the familial line, the property has been preserved and restored for the thousands of visitors who examine its artifacts, admire its architecture, and traverse its grounds each year. School programs, summer camps, and daily tours provide an immersive look into the lives of the people who populated the Plano area from 1890?1920, and a slew of rotating and permanent exhibits re-create such sites as a North Texas schoolhouse from 1895.
In 2007, the North Texas Event Center underwent a renovation that transformed a former call center into four fairytale ballrooms and a museum for classic cars. The gleaming Gull Wings, Alpha Romeos, and M6s catalyzed the project, as their owners sought a way to share their collections with the public. This desire dovetailed with the designs of city officials, who wanted to create an enduring cultural institution in Richardson and a way to see the cars without masquerading as stop signs. In order to realize this dream and reverse signs of aging in the 1980 building, contractors installed gleaming parquet floors valued at $2 million, and built out rooms with vaulted ceilings, broad stages, or bars. A crew of event planners oversees the chambers, which range from 1,883 to 14,000 square feet, and contain surprises such as 360 degrees of white drapes and a marble gazebo.
On a single day in the middle of World War II, actions in three isolated incidents represent an ethical lesson taught to this day at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. On that day—April 19, 1943—three Belgian men attacked a train destined for Auschwitz, freeing its passengers; the occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto united in revolt; and at the Bermuda Conference, officials from the British and American governments declined to take action against ongoing atrocities in Europe. The Dallas Holocaust Museum’s main exhibit locates a crucial distinction in presenting these three events: the difference between "bystanders" and what the museum calls "Upstanders." The exhibit was created in the hopes that every visitor would become an "Upstander," moved not only to remember a horrific past but also to take action when faced with modern threats to human rights.
A self-guided audio tour relates the heroism of those who stood up on that date in 1943 as museum guests explore artifacts, photographs, and a full-size boxcar. Special exhibits that often focus on photography supplement the permanent installation, and testimonies from volunteer survivors and liberators provide a firsthand perspective on the historical tragedy and its lessons. Along with exposing more than 30,000 students and 22,000 walk-in visitors to its messages annually, the museum advocates engagement with the world through educational programs designed for everyone from educators to law-enforcement officials.