Chestnut Square Director

Prairie Adventure Camp participants learn about historic Collin County life inside the Wilmeth Schoolhouse at Chestnut Square Historic Village in McKinney. Jaymie Pedigo, the village’s new executive director, hopes to enhance its camps and other on-site events.

A McKinney resident for just four years, Jaymie Pedigo has been tasked with furthering a heritage that dates back well over a century.

The Heritage Guild of Collin County board this spring named Pedigo as the new executive director of Chestnut Square Historic Village, a downtown destination that exemplifies the county’s foundation. Eleven buildings – including homes, a chapel, schoolhouse, inn and general store – offer visitors a walk-through glimpse of life from 1850 to 1940.

Pedigo had served as interim director following former Director Cindy Johnson’s resignation in January. Partway into her 90-day interim contract, the board signed on Pedigo full-time through the end of the year.

Wayne Hill, the Guild’s board chairman, said the board is confident “everything will continue to fit together” as Pedigo firms her grasp on Chestnut Square’s historic reins.

“She hit the ground running and had good rapport with staff immediately,” Hill said. “She’s done a great job during the transition.”

Chestnut Square is home to one of Texas’ top-rated farmers markets, according to the American Farmland Trust. The market runs every Saturday from spring through fall. The village’s other ongoing attractions: the Yesterday and Today Fashion Show, the Killis Melton Ice Cream Crank-Off, Prairie Adventure Camps, a ghost walk and the popular Holiday Tour of Homes.

Despite a change in leadership, the Guild’s mission remains. “Our goal is to maintain and make the best use of Chestnut Square so people from Collin County and surrounding areas have a better appreciation of the heritage,” Hill said.

However limited as a McKinney history buff – there’s a curator for that – Pedigo brings in 25 years of nonprofit management experience. In McKinney, she worked communications for nearby St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and handled similar duties for Community Lifeline Center through 2013.

Before landing in North Texas, she held positions in the Houston area with the Humane Society, a school-business partnership program, the Houston Chamber of Commerce’s foundation division and the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I would sit down with the president of Shell and ask for $250,000 – a whole different ballgame,” Pedigo said. “But it’s all about people skills and building relationships.”

Raising funds is paramount to any nonprofit, including Chestnut Square, which depends on grants and consistent contributions from the McKinney Community Development Corp. for building improvements and events. Memberships and donations provide additional money, and the farmers market, Holiday Tour and weddings account for most of its revenues.

Chestnut Square has booked “well over 100” weddings already this year, including a record second quarter in sales, Pedigo said. Weddings make up about one-third of the budget.

In her brief tenure, Pedigo has helped update the Chestnut Square website and gotten the Dulaney Inn back on track. Likely the village’s best-known building, the Dulaney House is being transformed into an inn, complete with a bridal suite, two other rooms and a commercial kitchen.

A required sprinkler system cost $50,000 and set the Inn back about six months. With remodeling and furnishing, the transformation will take about $120,000, Hill said. The Guild hopes to open it by September. Pedigo called the Inn “another boon to our revenue stream.”

“The driver in that is our wedding planning,” added Hill, who with his wife runs McKinney Bed and Breakfast. “Bridal parties are always asking for a place to stay.”

Pedigo aims to hone Chestnut Square’s sponsorship approach, evening out a sponsor’s event exposure. She also plans to garner private foundation grants, until now a scant resource.

Longer-term, likely two to three years, she hopes to make the village capable of hosting traveling historic exhibits.

Downtown-based Munzee, an industry leader in global scavenger hunts, recently enabled 24/7 tours at Chestnut Square. Necessary information is posted on every building, and the free Munzee app or any downloadable QR scanner links to audio narrating the buildings’ history.

No longer are tours just during business hours or by scheduled appointments. It’s a cost-efficient way of “making history relevant” and keeping up-to-date the method for delivering the village’s decades-old stories, Pedigo said.

“Not only is this option convenient, it provides an additional element of fun,” said Leisha Phipps, curator, in a statement. “Munzee gives Chestnut Square the ability to offer you an audio tour and historical scavenger hunt in one.”

Just off the downtown square, Chestnut Square is one of Collin County’s realest testaments to its legacy. Shortening that two-block separation, through innovation and awareness, is Pedigo’s principal task.

“What we have to offer is the historic charm,” she said. “I want to bring more people here.”

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