Dating back to the 1870s, what is now known as the Woodbury Heritage House began as a little log cabin, home to the late property owner Frederick Raths. Over the course of more than 150 years, the Heritage House has grown as a symbol of community history for the residents of Woodbury and is now owned by the Woodbury Heritage Society.
Founded by the late Inez Oehlke, the society has been around for decades and educates local residents, especially children, on historical Woodbury events and teaches them the history that has made the city what it is today.
What was just a small log cabin has grown into much more now, including the central location for yearly traditions, bi-monthly summer events, visits and gardening that focus on the history of how Woodbury grew from a rural farming area to the fast-paced medical and shopping hub it is now. As the community rapidly grows and societal norms continue to evolve, the Heritage Society’s board continuously provides efforts and creates new ideas of how to get residents curious, interested and involved in the history of the city at hand.
Wayne Schilling, president of the Woodbury Heritage Society, has watched the evolution of the city and has seen how it affects those who visit the house and any events put on by the society. “[The Heritage House] is special because holding onto history is important … it’s how the future will learn,” Schilling says.
As the Heritage Society evolves, its desire to expand do as well. The current project in the works is to preserve the Miller Barn, a large historical site on 60 acres of city property that the Woodbury Heritage Society wants to make open to the public for educational experiences. The society and City of Woodbury have been working together for years to accommodate the ideas and visions of the society and the Miller Barn committee.
“We have many ideas of what we want to do with the space and we have received funding for restoration and upkeep of the barn, and to put forth our interests and ideas that are of value to the importance of teaching and learning,” Schilling says. He envisions activities with different agricultural items and crops, such as an area for children to play in corn kernels.
Margaret Wachholz is the society’s board director and has high hopes for the future of the Miller Barn. “It all started with the matriarch of Woodbury, Inez Oehlke … She left funding for us to get started … She had such forward-thinking and her legacy was to help advance the city,” Wachholz says.
Wachholz would like to bring Volksmarching, a German tradition, to the Miller Barn. She grew up with it and would love to create a new Woodbury tradition, a reason for a party and getting neighbors together. Other ideas include students investing in saving the Miller Barn (a $2-$5 donation) and paying it forward to the city of Woodbury.
“Children are growing up and we have to teach them how the heritage and history began, as well as give honor to families,” says Wachholz. The goal for the Heritage Society is to make the Miller Barn a space of fun learning experiences. Being openly transparent is a priority to the society in making it an involvement-driven space for families and children to go to at any time of year. The ultimate goal is to turn it into a museum, free and open to the public, as it is what Oehlke always wanted.
The Woodbury Heritage Society holds events throughout the year, at not only the Heritage House, but throughout the city as well for the public to attend. Two major events, the annual January social and July diner en blanc, help raise both awareness and funds for the society’s causes.
“Sometimes we have guest speakers, we’ll bring food, we’ll share… sometimes it’s at one of the churches, sometimes at Central Park. We love the public to come. We [first] have our board meeting, and then we open it up and go into different activities,” Wachholz says. As transparency is a key part of their mission, it encourages involvement within the community and educates citizens on what the society is currently working on.
As of press time, few details had been confirmed for this month’s social—for more information, visit woodburyheritage.org.
The Heritage Society holds events at the Heritage House that are open to the public on the second and fourth Sunday of the month (June through September) between 1 and 4 p.m. The grounds, garden and house are all completely open and contain different artifacts dating back to the 1800s for residents to see and learn more about. As we look to the warmer seasons, the first open house this year will be June 14.