Nearly 200 years ago, Joseph Goodrich decided to risk everything to change the lives of many.
The Milton Historical Society plans to salute that historic decision at the Milton House’s 175th anniversary picnic Wednesday.
In 1844, Goodrich built a small stagecoach inn and later expanded the property to include a business area and larger hotel. The property features a tunnel that was part of the extensive Underground Railroad that helped people escape slavery.
The building is now the Milton House Museum, a walk-through historical site that teaches people about Goodrich and Milton’s history.
The grout and other materials used to construct the building have required a lot of maintenance, and parts of the building crumbled years ago. But the community has donated time and money to save the main part of the historical property.
Kari Klebba, historical society executive director, said organizers want to thank the community with the free picnic.
“The Milton House is standing today because of the community,” she said. “This is not a building that could’ve survived on its own without the direct preservation and volunteerism from Milton.”
Blackhawk Community Credit Union is sponsoring Wednesday’s event, which starts at 5 p.m. in North Goodrich Park. Piggly Wiggly will cater the food.
“This building represents a lot of different things,” Klebba said. “What it lacks in splendor it makes up for in a truly unique and special story. The Milton House was an epicenter, and it was from here that Milton grew.”
The museum is one of four authenticated sites from the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin, and it is the only site that is open for tours. Last year ,more than 12,000 people visited the museum.
“When people come here, they are quite literally transported,” Klebba said.
Klebba said the museum is looking at future improvements, including updated exhibits that include technology.
For now, she hopes people continue to appreciate the history inside, which locals can see firsthand Wednesday.
“When we are here, we want to make sure there is a personal experience and people understand that places like this matter because they make history come to life.”