To visit Mesquite is like traveling back in time. From warm, inviting homesteads that transport visitors back more than a century to a house of worship still finding new ways to bring people together, these historic destinations are also an important part of Mesquite’s future.
Opal Lawrence Historical Park
To see how one of the founding families of Mesquite lived, visit Opal Lawrence Historical Park, a restoration and preservation project overseen by Historic Mesquite, Inc. The Lawrence family originally lived in a lovely but relatively simple farmhouse. That original 1800s structure blossomed over the years; the family continued to expand the home and made additions, including a belvedere, a weathervane, chicken coops, a smokehouse, a curing shed, and a barn built in 1886 that still stands on the property today.
The sprawling property now holds a Texas Historical Marker and is part of the National Register of Historic Places, giving locals and tourists alike a chance to experience a piece of history right here in Mesquite.
Florence Ranch Homestead
Florence Ranch Homestead is another beautifully preserved estate, this one dating back to 1871 when David Walker Florence laid claim to the 207.5-acre property and made a home for his young family. Just over 20 years later, the ranch had more than tripled in size, and Florence continued to expand his property holdings until he passed on and left everything to his son Emet and Emet’s wife, Perle. Their daughter, Florence Florence, and their granddaughter, Julie Schulz Morris, left Florence Ranch Homestead to the City of Mesquite in 1987.
Built by friends and family, without the assistance of a professional architect or builder, and furnished with significant local artifacts, it serves as a fascinating example of 19th-century carpentry and ingenuity.
There is a patch of land on Peachtree Road, nestled between a concrete channel on one side and railroad tracks on the other, that serves as the resting place of some of Mesquite’s most important past residents. For years, Brickyard Cemetery was simply abandoned acreage until an archaeologist steward sent by the Texas Historical Commission uncovered some 80 graves.
Here, under shards of pink granite, concrete, metal, and wood that used to be headstones, lie the remains of African-American laborers from the Ferris Brick Company, which operated from 1904 until the 1950s and provided the materials for iconic buildings in Mesquite and beyond. Thanks to the NAACP and Historic Mesquite, Inc., there is now a permanent memorial honoring those buried in the cemetery.
New Hope Baptist Church
New Hope Baptist Church is another undertaking tied to Historic Mesquite, Inc. This time, the history-loving nonprofit is on a mission to preserve a church with a history closely interwoven with Mesquite’s past. While the church is deeply important to local practicing Baptists, it is also part of Opal Lawrence Historical Park and can potentially serve as a peaceful, welcoming venue for those looking to host a wedding, workshop, or conference.
Treasures Barn Sale
Every October, Opal Lawrence Historical Park turns into the site of the famous Treasures Barn Sale, a weekend-long event that’s half party, half fundraiser. The festivities kick off on Thursday with a preview party and silent auction; then there’s vendor shopping and a movie at the barn on Saturday. Shoppers load up on everything from clothes to antiques with all of the proceeds going to support the efforts of Historic Mesquite, Inc.
Soak up the history of Mesquite in living color thanks to the actors portraying Mesquite’s earliest denizens during the annual Mesquite Meander, held each May. Participants get to go on a walking tour of Mesquite Cemetery, where members of the Mesquite Community Theatre bring some of the city’s most notable characters to life through thoughtful, well-researched performances.
Historic Downtown Mesquite
Stroll along Main Street in historic Downtown Mesquite and you’ll see historic old buildings that date back to Mesquite’s earliest days, and lots of authentic charm and tons of possibilities. There are boot makers and boutiques, an auction house, a salon, restaurants, a public area with a gazebo, and a rotating slate of events that run the gamut from an ongoing farmer’s market to the city’s official tree-lighting ceremony in December.
Photo credit: Mesquite Convention and Visitors Bureau