While University City remains home to large subdivisions like Highland Creek, Hampton Place and Browne's Ferry, the next time you're out for a Sunday drive, keep an eye out for the many traces left of the area's rural heritage. Along Eastfield Road near Browne Road sits Edgewood Farm, one of the few relatively intact large antebellum houses left in Mecklenburg County. A large magnolia tree marks the entrance to this lovely and graceful home, built in the transitional Federal/Greek Revival architectural style. The residence is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg designated historic landmark. Owned now by Meg McLeod, it was built by Robert Davidson Alexander and his wife Abigail Bain Caldwell Alexander. The two were married on Feb. 12, 1829, and built a one-story log house (which is still intact behind the present one) on 400 acres given to them by William Alexander in 1830. About 1840, the Alexanders built their roomy, two-story frame plantation house in which they raised their five children. The plantation was reportedly a well-run and prosperous farm which boasted a productive orchard, livestock and even honeybees in addition to feed crops. The fine hospitality at Edgewood was legendary, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. "Squire" Robert Alexander, who served almost 40 years as the local justice of the peace and was a member of the county court, was known for his love of reading and discussion rather than the traditional fox and deer hunts of the other planters. McLeod has owned the property since 1964 and is now raising about 28 sheep and 15 lambs on the farm, in addition to a number of rescue cats. She also has a goat, Nibbles, who was orphaned at birth and, because she was bottle-fed along with several lambs, now thinks she's a sheep. McLeod would have more goats, "but their desire is to live on the other side of the fence," she says. There will be more lambs come sheep shearing time in the spring. McLeod will host a sheep shearing party in May for invited neighborhood guests, but everyone driving by the intersection of Browne and Eastfield can see her flock grazing. Just don't slow down too much -- McLeod says a few years ago there was an accident at that intersection and a medevac helicopter had to land in the pasture. Along with once-peaceful Eastfield Road becoming a main thoroughfare, the main difference that McLeod has seen since in the area since 1964 is the flurry of development. It's just unbelievable, she says.Take a rural escape After admiring the beauty of Edgewood and hopefully seeing McLeod's sheep out for a bite, keep driving about 3 miles north and you'll see a charming sight -- Wallace Farm'sminiature horses. The Wallace Family started farming this land in 1863, growing crops and raising livestock. In 1945, the farm started a dairy operation and shortly after added a poultry operation. In the 1960s, the farm added composting to the existing crop, dairy and poultry operations. Current agricultural activities include raising miniature horses, production of hay and producing premium top soil, potting soil, planting soil, soil conditioner, composted cow manure, compost and mulches. Wallace Farm is environmentally focused and committed to a green environment. Each year, they naturally recycle up to 100,000 tons of organic materials through composting. Next to Wallace Farm is Sundance Stables. Sundance, operated by Robby and Lisa Kiser, is a full service horse boarding facility offering private or group lessons in both English and western styles of riding. They welcome visitors to feed a carrot to horses Savanna, Charlotte, Foxy, Pammy, Jack and Oscar. Sundance offers summer camps and birthday parties for kids that include visits to the miniature horses and often hosts shows and events in their two riding arenas. The facility is also home to the UNC Charlotte Equestrian Team. In University City south, a favorite destination for families looking to get back to nature is Hodges Farm, one of the county's largest farmsteads, located on winding Rocky River Church Road. Eugene Wilson Hodges designed and built his farmhouse around 1908 and it is a designated historic landmark, along with the 19th-century farmhouses of the Caldwell and Hood families which are nearby. Frank Hodges, the son of Eugene Hodges, is the current owner of the property and it serves now as an "open farm environment" where the public can get to know its animals. Horses, cattle, goats and sheep call this sprawling farm home. Special activities during the year include hayrides and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch in October and Christmas tree sales in November and December. Hodges Farm can host birthday parties, offers riding lessons and summer camps, and sells organic meat, hay, mulch and honey. A mini-escape from suburban sprawl in festival form is the second annual Green Goats and Gardens, held this year on April 30 in University Research Park. University City Partners and Environmental Way will host this celebration of sustainability featuring environmental displays, live music, vendors selling food and crafts and a herd of hungry goats munching their way through a 4-acre brushy hillside. Take time out to appreciate other rural pockets of University City, including Concord Farms Road, Mallard Creek Road close to Prosperity Church Road and Harrisburg Road. These pieces of the past, nestled in the region’s booming suburbs, still anchor our ever-changing community.
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