Dr. Trey Berry, president of Southern Arkansas University, opened the dedication of the Alexander-Warnock and Ozmer Historic Farmstead and Learning Center with warm thanks and a reminder that the completion of the four-year project “is about family, it’s about home, and preserving our heritage.”
Proclaiming Friday, March 6 as a “historic day” in the history of the University, Berry welcomed members of the Alexander, Warnock and Ozmer families, state officials, members of the SAU campus, alumni and friends to the ceremony on the Farmstead grounds.
Noting that hundreds of people are to thank for their participation in and support of the project, Berry began by thanking Darrell Rogers of Magnolia, who donated the Ozmer House to SAU in 1986 for its preservation. “In some ways, this project has been going on for 34 years,” Berry said. He also thanked David and Diana Hall, direct descendants of the Ozmer family, who invested in their ancestral home by funding moving expenses to place the home in its current location.
Magnolia resident Molly Harsh Burns spoke on behalf of the Alexander and Warnock family. Mrs. Burns expressed shared appreciation to the family toward the University for their efforts to save and preserve their ancestral home. Burns regaled the large audience with stories about the homes, noting to laughter that “the two houses are kin by marriage.”
The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism cabinet secretary, Ms. Stacy Hurst, and the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) program manager, Ms. Debra Fithen attended the Farmstead dedication. Through grants, these agencies have provided significant resources to transform the SAU campus over the past nine years, including the Farmstead. Ms. Hurst spoke on behalf of the two agencies, acknowledging the importance of protecting historic resources in the state. “These historic structures are not only beautiful but instruct on life in rural Arkansas,” Hurst said. “This is our history brought to life and made accessible to us today.”
The Farmstead consists of the Alexander-Warnock House, c. 1853-55, and the Ozmer House, c. 1883, bathrooms disguised as a detached kitchen, and a barn for Molly Ann, the University’s mule.. As part of the dedication, guests toured both newly-renovated historic homes and visited with Abbie Guinn, the SAU Mulerider mascot.
The event concluded with family members, University leaders, and state officials gathering at the corner of the Farmstead lawn to plant a ceremonial holly tree. President Berry closed by commending “a great community and statewide effort. Welcome home.”