Structural History of UT Martin

Name of Property: Woodley Farm

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Purchase Date: July 1928

Cost: $18,000

Brief History:

Much of the University of Tennessee at Martin occupies the one-time site of Woodley Farm. The heavily wooded property at the edge of the burgeoning new railroad hub at Martin had been acquired as a farmstead by James Evans Freeman in the mid 1880's. The name "Woodley Farm" was given to the parcel by his wife, Elizabeth Rast Freeman, to reflect the property's large and numerous hickory, oak, poplar and elm trees (a few of the farm's younger trees still stand on the quadrangle). Freeman was a Weakley County politician, tax collector, and sheriff. He and Elizabeth built a spacious, thirteen-room frame house on the natural rise now occupied by the Paul Meek Library. A dozen other farm and out buildings were scattered about the property, which included a fourteen-stall barn, hen house, smoke house, tobacco barn, and various other storage structures, including housing for several tenant farmers who worked the property. Throughout the final years of the 19th century and into the late 1910s, the farm served as a productive working farm and as a popular gathering place for family, friends and visitors. The Martin Lawn Tennis Club met and played there on the South Lawn. Grandson Holland McCombs remembered the place fondly.

The farm went rapidly into decline after Elizabeth Freeman's death in 1915. By the 1920's, the place had fallen into general disrepair and its earlier days of its prosperity were largely memories. The family struggled to maintain the property until July of 1928, when one of the surviving sons, Otis Freeman, sold ninety-eight acres of the farm to the University of Tennessee for $18,000. The purchase provided a working farm property for agriculture students and expansion space for the small campus acquired with the purchase of the Hall-Moody Junior College campus. This Woodley Farm parcel eventually became the center of the University of Tennessee at Martin campus.

The original farm property was bisected by the Union City Road, which ran straight west from St. Charles Street past the front of the original Hall-Moody building. After the farm was sold, the road through campus was closed and rerouted west across the Lovelace property from the end of Mechanic (later University) Street. Segments of the original road to Gardner and on to Union City survive as Pat Head Summit Drive and Hawks Road. Though trees planted after 1940 are now large enough to confuse viewers, if one stands just to the north of the Business Administration Building porch and look due west across the quadrangle, one can run a sight line down the old Union City Road roadbed.

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