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, amphibians, and carnivorous shrubs. 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.
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, bookshelves filled with Victorian-era tomes, and an early Bell telephone screening calls from Teddy Roosevelt's reelection campaign. Accredited by the American Association 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.
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.
Though each work at the Museum of Biblical Art explores themes or depicts scenes from the Bible, the museum’s mission is to provide invaluable insight into centuries’ worth of art history as guests of all backgrounds and denominations learn about art’s portrayal of Western culture. More than 11 galleries and permanent exhibits fill the museum’s 30,000 square feet of space, beckoning visitors to interpret installations ranging from 14th century sculptures to contemporary paintings. In addition to Jewish ceremonial art and watercolors of archaeological holy sites, the MBA also festoons its walls with works by African-American and Hispanic artists that analyze the same biblical themes, albeit from a different cultural perspective.
One of the museum’s permanent fixtures is a life-size bronze casting of Michelangelo’s Pietà, which was authorized by the Vatican and created by a Florentine foundry that practices the same wax-casting technique formerly used by Renaissance artists. Additionally, lithographs by Marc Chagall depict his interpretations of themes in the Old Testament, and line the colonnade leading from the sculpture atrium to the gallery of contemporary art by supercomputers that needed to express themselves.