Janesville Historic Walking Tours will unlock the history around you

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

JANESVILLE—This neighborhood was Janesville's most socially and economically diverse historic district.

It also is the closest neighborhood to downtown and was appealing to both the factory owner and factory worker who lived side-by-side.

Its historic St. Patrick's and All Saints Episcopal churches are hallmarks of the district and its mix of houses are both high-styled and humble.

“The Fourth Ward neighborhood is a hidden gem,” said Rich Fletcher, local historian and former Janesville Historic Commission member.

“Most people do not venture to walk around and experience it,” he said.

They will, however, have the opportunity to do so Saturday, Aug. 9, during one of 10 Janesville Historic Walking Tours this year.

The walks are free, start at 9 a.m. June 7 and continue Saturdays, twice a month through October.

The walks this year will include new tour guides and new perspectives on all of the neighborhoods, said Fletcher, who established the historic walking tours in 2005.

“Unlocking the History Around You,” will serve as the theme of the re-launched tours, he said.

The Rock County Historical Society is coordinating the tours with the Janesville Historic Commission.

“Promoting the distinct architecture and personality of Janesville is part of our larger mission of promoting Rock County's history and the walking tours are central to that,” agreed Rock County Historical Society Executive Director Michael Reuter.

“We are excited to partner with the commission and with Fletcher and are honored to be able to continue his efforts of keeping the tours engaging and educational,” he said.

“People have been listening to me all these years,” Fletcher said.

“It's time to hand it off. It will be nice to get different perspectives and is such a good fit to enhance the historical society's outreach,” he said.

The hour-long tours rotate on a schedule from Main and Milwaukee streets, to Look West, Courthouse Hill, the Fourth Ward and Columbus Circle, Fletcher said.

The tours will tell the history of Janesville from sites related to the visit by future President Abraham Lincoln in 1859 to the current home of Congressman and 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

“The Rock County Historical Society will be a great steward of the walking tours that have been so popular. The opportunity to offer tours more frequently and to expand tour offerings will only enhance the impact of the tours and bring RCHS out into the neighborhoods,” Fletcher said.

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