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Hyde Park Farm (Old Field)
Hyde Park Farm has a long and complex history that includes serving as a Jewish refugee training farm. From 1936 to 1941, under the sponsorship of William Thalhimer Sr., the Richmond owner of Thalhimer's Department Stores, the farm was set up as a camp for resettling young German Jews. After the passage by the Nazi regime of the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws in 1935, it became clear to the German Jewish Council that emigration was imperative. The council then sought countries willing to accept Jewish immigrants, but in an era of worldwide economic depression and antisemitism, nations were unwilling to admit Jewish refugees. To open windows of escape, the council set up a training farm in Gross-Breeson as a staging point for sending young urbanites to farms in North and South America and in Africa where there were some limited immigration possibilities for skilled craftsmen and farmers. William Thalhimer helped the council set up a training farm at Hyde Park Farm. Despite the council's efforts, this was the only foreign farm they were able to establish. Here, with the help of agricultural experts from Virginia Tech (MO17), the young Germans planted a peach orchard, developed a dairy farm, and built the first mass-production chicken farm in Virginia. By the time Fort Pickett (NW13) opened in 1942, they were naturalized citizens and almost all enlisted in the army. The Hyde Park experiment ended in 1941.
The central section of the house, built by landowner John Paschal Fowlkes, is a center-passage, single-pile, two-story frame building over a high cellar. A one-bay porch with coupled Ionic columns shelters the lower-level and first-floor entrances. Much of the original Federal woodwork is still in place, but in an 1830s remodeling some of it was replaced with Greek Revival trim in the style of Asher Benjamin's The Practical House Carpenter (1830). About this time, the name was changed to Hyde Park Farm in honor of Martha Anne Hyde, wife of Paschal Jennings Fowlkes, son of Pascal and then the owner of the farm. In a major remodeling in 1906, early wings were demolished and a wing and a rear ell in brick were constructed for Thomas Scott, a Boston financier. As his vacation house, it was the scene of lavish entertainments. In the yard are the kitchen, the farm supervisor's house, and various other outbuildings, including many of the chicken houses built by the Jewish immigrants.
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