Center of significance
Black Shire Distillery opened its doors in May of 2018 on the grounds of Hermann Farm Museum. As part of the farm tour, visitors tour a replica of a distiller's house along with a fully functioning spring house.
The Hermann Farm Museum opened for its fourth season in May.
Antique implements like tractors and this old carriage wagon dot the grounds of the farm giving visitors a look into the everyday objects from the past.
A replica shop exhibits woodworking equipment typical of what would have been found from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century.
The farm houses two heritage chicken breeds in their coop - Wyandotte and the Barred Plymouth Rock (pictured here).
Tour guides give guided tours in period clothing.
Flowering chives grow in the gardens at Hermann Farm Museum.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour through First Settlement Village at the entrance of the property. In this section is a replica of the trading post established by French fur traders in the 1700s.
A fur hat hangs on the back of a rocking chair in the upstairs quarters of the trading post. Many German settlers stayed in the French fur trading post during their first harsh winter when they arrived in 1836-37.
The Schuetzen Hale is an example of a typical German hunting club. The Germans who settled in Hermann brought the tradition of target shooting with them, but it was not until 1872 that they formally organized a society called Hermann Schuetzen Verein or Hermann Sharpshooters Society.
The farm's traditional four-square gardens are reminiscent of those found in Germany and other parts of Europe.
The farm sits on 200 acres of bluffs overlooking both the Missouri river and the town of Hermann.
Sharon Leeper gives a tour of an old cemetery overlooking the river where the original owners of the property, Charles and Josephine Teubener are buried. The Teubners were the original owners of the farm and established thousands of vines and fruit trees.
Hermann Farm Director Eric Nichols said he's always had a passion for antiques and history. His wife, Susan, also works at the farm.
The Third Switch Band from Columbia, Mo. plays at the farm's Black Shire Distillery to celebrate its one-year anniversary May 18.
The historical farm breeds Black Shire horses, which are currently considered a threatened species by the Livestock Conservancy. Ten foals have been born on the farm - the most recent in early May and weighing in at a massive 135 pounds.
In the Visitor Center, patrons can buy Black Shire Distillery spirits in addition to locally made and sourced crafts.
German travelers encountered a long and arduous journey from Europe in the 1800s. While most ships supplied water, passengers would pack their own food. Wealthy passengers would typically bring luxury items like eggs, coffee, dried fruits, sugar and ham, while poorer passengers may have to survive on hardtack, potatoes and onions.
Here Equine Specialist Merrill McLaughlin demonstrates the difference between and normal size horseshoe and a shire's shoe.
McLaughlin leads a 2-year-old English Shire named Scarlett around the tram for visitors to pet. The endangered English Shire is typically black in coloration, making Scarlett even rarer. There are only three like her in the U.S.
In addition to the walking tour, visitors can take guided tram tours.
Visitors are invited to tour the Husmann house, which was one of the first buildings to undergo restoration.
Both the Husmann house and Distiller's house are furnished with period appropriate pieces including serving dishes and furniture.
The tiny German hamlet of Hermann, Mo., is well known for its wine, but few know its history. It’s a rich history of both French and Germans, celebrated vintners and prohibition. And it’s that history the Hermann Farm Museum seeks to preserve today.
“Jim has always told me the idea came to him in a dream,” Hermann Farm Director Eric Nichols said, describing Jim Dierberg, a banker, vintner and owner of the museum in addition to several other properties in the town. “He knew the story of George Husmann and the legacy of the Hermann Farm, where Husmann lived, so when the property came up for sale, he was very interested.”
George Husmann is legend in this Missouri River town. Often referred to as the “Father of the Missouri grape industry,” Husmann immigrated here from Germany with his family as a child in 1839 and became an expert viticulturist influential in both the Missouri and California wine industries. He was an authority on grape hybrids and soils and is credited with helping to save French winemakers with Missouri rootstock when a nasty blight known as phylloxera destroyed vineyards across France’s countryside in the 1870s. Husmann served as a Union soldier during the Civil War and advocated for the abolishment of slavery. He also sat on the University of Missouri Board of Curators from 1869 to 1872.
“The Husmann house is where restoration began,” Nichols said. “Jim wanted to open the property to the public, so he could begin telling people about Husmann’s legacy and his great accomplishments as both a winemaker and horticulturist.”
To restore the Husmann house took about seven years in itself. The property had fallen into disrepair, once having formerly been a rental property and later sitting vacant. After the house’s renovations, Dierberg solidified a vision for his dream. Work began to stabilize and rebuild some of the farm buildings. Roadways for both construction and public access were completed.
“It’s just bloomed from there,” Nichols said. “Jim acquired what we refer to as ‘First Settlement Village,’ which are the houses in the area of the entrance to the farm. All of those buildings also required restoration— from the original post office and trading post to removing an old, abandoned gas station.”
A primitive log barn was rescued and reconstructed on the 200-acre farm. A replica homestead was built next to a newly erected distillery that produces blackberry whiskey, rye whiskey, two types of gin, brandy and vodka. The Dierbergs are also in the process of reclaiming the city lagoons, which will eventually be the site of a picturesque lake and horse arena.
The museum officially opened to the public in 2016 after nearly 15 years of work, largely completed by local craftsmen whenever possible. This center of significance represents both the artistry and hardships of history.
“When the Germans originally settled the area, it wasn’t anything like they envisioned,” Nichols said. “When they came here it was late fall and they faced a very bad winter with no place to stay. They essentially expected streets of gold, if you will, and what they found was a wilderness town established by French fur traders.”
The French trading post actually served as home for many of the Germans that first harsh winter. A replica of the trading post can now be toured along with a museum, the Schuetzen Halle (a target shooting club), woodworking shop and traditional four-square German gardens planted in crops of the period.
Wyandotte and Barred Plymouth Rock chickens peck at the ground in a small coop. Two Missouri Mules named Pat and Jane came with the farm when it was purchased from the Kallmeyer family, who owned and farmed the land for 100 years after the Husmanns. Nichols said the plan is to add more livestock in the future. Perhaps one of the farm’s most notable aspects are its endangered English Shire horses.
“The breed kind of fell by the wayside during the Industrial Revolution,” Nichols said. “The draft horse used to be your tractor, but much like present day, farmers wanted more efficient equipment. The massive Shires were also used to pull heavy dray wagons to town, which held beer, ale, spirits and wine. Keeping those two things in mind, they really seemed to suit here.”
The farm is actively involved in a Shire breeding program and has successfully bred 10 foals, the newest born at the beginning of May. The baby weighed in at a massive 135 pounds. Bigger than Clydesdales, these horses dwarf a normal person, but their gentle temperament makes them good candidates for tour groups.
“I think my No. 1 interest is the antiquity of the farm,” Nichols said. “I’m a 32-year veteran antique dealer in addition to working at the farm. The preservation of history is paramount for me, and I like having a hand in that.”
The Hermann Farm Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., now through Oct. 31. For more information, visit www.hermannfarm.com.
I grew up in Hermann, Mo., when there were few things to do before the age of 21 and even fewer that wouldn’t get you into trouble. As a former Hermannite, the immense work to revitalize the town is appreciated. At one time, it seemed like more businesses were shuttering their doors rather than opening them. Now there are coffee shops, restaurants and an amphitheater that hosts concerts and movies. It’s good to see such economic vitality returning. Hermann will always be known as a wine town, but to this girl who grew up in its woods and fields, it’s always held so much potential. Projects like the Hermann Farm help the community realize its potential.
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