Mahaffie opens doors to new barn at expanding historical site

05/01/2014 12:53 PM

05/01/2014 12:53 PM

Furry baby goats and fluffy yellow chicks have a new barn home in Olathe. And on May 3, its doors are open to visitors for the first time.

The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm at 1200 Kansas City Road is celebrating the grand opening of its Agricultural Heritage Barn from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event coincides with the historical site’s annual Playing on the Prairie, a free activities day presented by the Olathe Junior Service League.

The new 8,500-square-foot barn was a desperate need, said Mahaffie site manager Tim Talbott. In the past decade, the site’s farming and agricultural programs have expanded, requiring much more space for livestock and equipment.

The barn will house baby animals, such as kids, chicks, calves, and lambs, until they’re old enough to live outside, and it will be used to store 19th century farm equipment.

Interactive exhibits about farm animals and agriculture will also be prominently displayed inside the new space.

Throughout the year, visitors are welcome to stop by the new barn to watch livestock be groomed and bathed, or watch horses be harnessed to the stagecoach.

“Mahaffie is famous for being a stagecoach stop, but most people don’t realize it was also one of the most affluent farms in the county,” Talbott said. “I think it’s important to show people that aspect because during the Civil War era, most people lived on farms. It was a huge part of American life.”

Construction on the barn began in July and ended a month ago. The building was fully funded with a half-million dollar donation by long-time benefactor and Olathe resident Maron Moore, in the name of her and her husband, Edgar. The Johnson County Heritage Trust also donated funds for exhibits, graphic panels and banners to be installed inside.

“We could not have built this kind of facility without Maron’s donation,” Talbott said. “In fact, we couldn’t do any of these large-scale projects without donors or granting agencies, like the Johnson County Heritage Trust.”

He said the Olathe Parks and Recreation Department, which runs Mahaffie, is grateful for the financial support that lets the public use the site as an educational tool.

The stagecoach stop and farm, which sat along the Santa Fe Trail, had its heyday from 1865 to 1870, when it was run by James and Lucinda Mahaffie. Today, the site is frozen in time to that period with 19th century farming techniques, authentic décor and costume-garbed educators.

“It’s important to preserve a historical place, but it’s not enough,” Talbott said. “It needs to be brought to life and be made available to the public. That’s the only way people will be able to learn from it.”

On May 3, visitors will have a lot to learn at Mahaffie.

During Playing on the Prairie, people can tour the new barn, vote on the names of two baby goats housed there, hear educational talks about animals and even watch a sheep shearing demonstration.

Outside the barn, other activities include playing 19th century games, period arts and crafts, and helping with chores.

Another grand opening is planned nearby this summer when the new Olathe Community Center opens across the street.

In conjunction with the July 3 community center opening, Mahaffie will hold its 19th century Independence Day celebration.

“Having the community center open right across the street is going to be a huge advantage for us and will bring a whole new dynamic,” Talbott said. “We hope to have joint programs, such as sharing summer camps, and even offer birthday parties and weddings that can go back and forth between the two facilities. The possibilities are endless.”

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