BY CHUCK MILES
Learn the history of Caledonia. Preserve the history of Caledonia. Share the history of Caledonia. The Caledonia Historical Society (CHS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the collection, preservation and dissemination of materials and information relating to the history of Caledonia. The society promotes the understanding of the history of the village through a number of buildings and the artifacts within them.
Many historic buildings have survived; some because of good stewardship by our ancestors, others by luck and good fortune. They give pleasure to many people, form a valuable, social and educational resource and contribute to a sense of regional identity.
By preserving historical structures and artifacts from our past, we can enjoy them in the present and the future. The society shares Caledonia’s history with its residents and visitors to enrich our appreciation of who we are and where we have been.
The Caledonia Historical Society began in 2001 as a loose association of individuals and officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2003. The genesis of the society was a desire to save the original Caledonia Center Town Hall from the wrecking ball due to its deteriorating condition and the potential widening of Highway 38. In the late 1990s, the town chairman, Dennis Kornwolf, realized the historic value of the building and gathered a small group of like-minded citizens in an effort to save the structure. That group grew into the Caledonia Historical Society.
About the buildings
Built in 1877 when Joseph Fuhrman was the town chair, the Caledonia Center Town Hall had served the town well until a “new” Town Hall opened on Nicholson Road in Husher in 1952. Located on the Mary O’Conner property a quarter mile south of Five Mile Road and a scant few yards off Highway 38, the building was moved down the highway and to its new location in the Caledonia Historical Village on Dec. 4, 2003 where it began its second life as a museum and educational tool. The CHS celebrated the completion of the restoration on Aug. 26, 2007. The restored Caledonia Center, Town Hall is the foundation of our preservation efforts.
In 2009, we made a decision to expand our efforts by securing the funds necessary to save and relocate the 1902 Sturtevant (Milwaukee Road) Railroad Depot. After moving it to the Caledonia Historical Village in four pieces, the staggering restoration process began. Funds obtained through individual and business donations, fund-raising efforts and community organizations such as Preservation Racine and the Racine Community Foundation, provided much-needed support. In 2010 we relocated and refurbished a circa 1927 caboose and we were on the way to our historic settlement.
The next acquisition came about by luck. Alan and Patty Ruud unearthed an 1840s log cabin on their property in the core of a nondescript home prior to its destruction. The Ruud’s offered the cabin to the historical society along with enough funding to cover the disassembly and reconstruction in the Caledonia Historical Village. With the project completed in the spring of 2012, the Ruud Cabin is named the in their honor.
Another old building, completed in September of 2012, is the Myers Museum in honor of Royse and Barbara Myers, generous members of the CHS. The building is representative of a 19th century livery stable and built with materials recycled from disassembled barns and factories. It houses a blacksmith shop and a huge hand-carved diorama created by Joe Fotjik, Sr.
Our latest acquisition is a turn of the century machine shed from the Botting farmstead. Because of its size, this 24’ by 70’ two-story machine shed is an anomaly among sheds built during this era. Moved in 2015 in two pieces (upper and lower segments), the shed is on its new foundation and the restoration process is underway.
We also have a double-walled brick icehouse used to keep meat and milk cool, especially during the summer months. Two walls with a layer of air between them insulated the blocks of ice that kept the perishable items cold.
What is our drive? Simply put, we must retain, remember and appreciate the past. Our vision is to become the recognized leader in sharing the history of Caledonia with the whole community.
The Caledonia Historical Society is located at the Caledonia Historical Village, which is near the corner of 5 Mile Road and Highway 38 in Caledonia. The village is open from dawn to dusk and the buildings are open on the fourth Sunday of the month from May through September (11 a.m.- 3 p.m.). Donations are welcome and can be mailed to: Caledonia Historical Society, 5043 Chester Lane, Racine, WI 53402.
For more information, visit our website at caledoniahistoricalsociety.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chuck Miles in the president of the Caledonia Historical society.