A new historical marker was unveiled Saturday in front of the Milton Public Library, which prior to the closing of Milton College had been the Shaw Memorial Library.
College alumni and friends gathered to watch as Milton Public Library Director Ashlee Kunkel, Milton College Preservation Society and alumnus Tom Knitter of Caledonia removed the plastic bag covering the sign.
One side of the marker tells the story of Milton College:
“Milton College 1844-1982. Milton College began as a select secondary school on the prairie in 1844. Joseph Goodrich, founder of the community of Milton, established the Du Lac Academy in a grout building on the town square. In 1854 it was renamed Milton Academy. Main Hall, opened in 1855, was built on College Street on two acres Goodrich donated. Milton College received its charter in 1867 and transitioned to a liberal arts college open to men and women and known for its outstanding music program, athletic accomplishments and distinguished public service of many of its teachers.
“Peak enrollment was 859 students in 1970. When the college closed, enrollment was down to 210.
“Despite its transformative role in the history of education in Wisconsin, Milton College closed in 1982 due to low enrollment, loss of accreditation and financial difficulties.”
The other side of the marker talks about the Milton College Historic District, “the historic core of Milton College.” That includes:
- Main Hall, 513 College St. (1855), is a museum and a tribute to the liberal arts college. Main Hall is owned and operated by the Milton College Preservation Society.
- Goodrich Hall, 501 College St., (1857), was built to serve as a dormitory for 50 students. Today the building is privately owned.
- Whitford Memorial Hall, 525 College St. (dedicated in 1907), served as a science building. Today the building is privately owned and includes a CrossFit gym and an art studio.
- Robert F. Fraser House, 510 E. High St., purchased for the college president’s residence in 1902 and later served as a music studio and administrative office. Today the building is privately owned.
The marker also lists the gymnasium. According to the Milton College Preservation Society website, the Class of 1909 made a gift of $1,000 toward a gymnasium, which generated pledges of $8,000 in support of the project. The building, which cost $22,000 was finished in 1911 and served as both gymnasium and auditorium. A wing was added to the old gymnasium in 1962 to accommodate the music department which had out grown the studio, and the gymnasium itself was remodeled into the Allen-Bradley Auditorium. The building was dedicated as the Daland Fine Arts Center. Today the building is owned by the School District of Milton.
"The college expanded in the 1960s and new campus buildings were constructed south of High Street. After the college closed, the contents of the buildings were auctioned and eventually each building was sold. Main Hall today serves as a museum of Milton College history.
Established very early and enjoying success for over a century, Milton College was one of the most influential centers of education in Wisconsin with its leaders contributing to the establishment and refinement of the state’s educational systems."
Milton College Historic District is listed on national and state register. Here, the privately owned Whitford-Borden House, 605 College St., is listed but not the gymnasium.
MCPS Board of Directors Secretary Joan Heinze at the unveiling gave credit to retired MCPS administrator Judy Scheehle for procuring the marker before she retired in 2018.
Knitter, who participated in Milton College’s satellite program and graduated in 1982 with a bachelor of science in criminal justice, encouraged MCPS to take on the project and donated toward the cause.
He said there was some debate about whether to place the marker on College Street or on High Street in front of the library. Set up in front of the library, Knitter said the marker might lead people to come inside the library, visit the second-floor area dedicated to the college and learn more.
Wisconsin's State Historical Markers are cast aluminum, have raised cream-colored letters on a tobacco brown background and feature the badger, the state symbol of Wisconsin, embossed at the top of the marker.
According to the Wisconsin State Historical Society website, there are more than 575 official state markers in Wisconsin that carry approved historical inscriptions. Find a list of them at www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS3210.