Farm Park Stable Gets Restoration

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By Nancy Brannon

There have been many recent improvements to the property at 7901 Old Poplar Pike in Germantown, now owned by the City of Germantown and called Bobby Lanier Farm Park. Volunteer gardeners have established prolific vegetable and flower community gardens on the property. There is a large herb garden to season those fresh tasty vegetables.  Chickens produce eggs and patrol the barnyard for insects. The small cottage near the back of the property has been repaired for use by the staff. But the neglected stable is the main structure yet to be renovated – until a few weeks ago.

In August, the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved an agreement between the city and Germantown Charity Horse Show officials, a public-private partnership that provides for improvements to the stable. The estimated cost of over $250,000 for the renovation will be borne mainly by the Germantown Charity Horse Show. The labor is mostly volunteered by Germantown Charity Horse Show officials and friends, led by George McGaha, facilities director for the horse show.

McGaha said that renovations started about six weeks/two months ago. The GCHS folks are funding it and doing the work – mainly to give back to the City of Germantown and to Bobby Lanier, both of whom have been major supporters of the horse show. “The idea of being able to do something for the city and to honor Bobby Lanier is the key goal behind this labor,” he said.

“We had to replace some of the concrete blocks in the stalls. I removed all the wire between the stalls myself,” McGaha said. He is in the process of replacing all the stall boards that line the top of the blocks, preparing the framework that will hold the bars between the stalls. “We will rebuild the stall doors, create a museum area on the west side of the stalls, and renovate the bathroom and the office.”

Work on repairing the roof and adding two sky lights was in progress. McGaha said some of the repairs, like roofing, plumbing, and electrical work were contracted with private companies. Otherwise, it’s George and a “crew” of two other folks who do the majority of the work: Austin Simmons and John Coons. Other volunteers help out, such as Jimmy Chancellor, former GCHS President and contractor.

Jef Terry, Bobby Lanier Farm Park Manager, came by to see the progress of the work. He has been researching the history of the property and was excited to find that the original owner of all the property in this area, including the park, was Frances Wright. “She started the Nashoba commune here in Germantown, on this property. She lived right here! She was Scottish born, a lecturer, writer, abolitionist, free thinker, feminist, and social reformer.” Read more about Frances Wright at the Germantown Museum website:

In recent decades, the 10-acre property in the heart of old Germantown has a history of being a horse stable. Before City of Germantown bought the property in 2009, it was Michael and Joan Terry’s Ocean View Farm. In the 1970s, it was Mark IV stables, managed by trainer Melinda Brannon Harrison. In the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, Gayle Ragen resided there, and her two sons, Danny and Tim rode hunter ponies, training with Melanie Smith Taylor. In fact, Ragen’s second husband, Jacques Schuler, has done some volunteer work on the barn and in the garden. Prior to that, it was owned by the Thurmans and the Thompsons. The stable was originally built by Bill Culbreath. And, the original [modern] owner was Billy McCaa, dating back to the 1940s.

Within hacking distance of the Germantown Charity Horse Show grounds, it was a desirable location for hunter/jumper riders. The current soccer fields adjacent to the park were once horse pasture, leased by Mark IV Stables and shared with riders from Jerome Robertson’s stable, which was just on the other side of the field. Just down the road is the Hugh Frank Smith Farm, where Olympian Melanie Smith Taylor trained, and Richard Watson’s training barn was located on Germantown Parkway where The Village At Germantown retirement community now sits. And with Wildwood Farms on Germantown Road south of Poplar Pike, the area once teemed with the region’s top hunter/ jumper and polo trainers and riders.

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