Work restarted on turning Goodridge-Dempwolf house into Underground Railroad Museum
William C. Goodridge was born a slave in Maryland, but became a free and prosperous business man in York, Pennsylvania, in the decades before the American Civil War. He owned a multistory emporium on York’s center square as well as a barbershop and other businesses, including a railcar manufacturing concern.
He was also a smuggler.
Goodridge is known to have been active in the Underground Railroad movement in York County and often secreted escaped slaves in his properties. He reportedly also hid them in false bottoms in his railcars and transported them out of harm’s way.
His home at 123 E. Philadelphia Street was a way station on the Underground Railroad according to the National Park Service’s Road to Freedom group.
Donated to the local Crispus Attucks organization years ago by its owner, the house has sat empty for several years while funding was being secured to restore it as an Underground Railroad museum.
And now, thanks to the efforts of several concerned Yorkers, the work is back underway. Here are some photos I took of the work in progress, with so very, very much yet to go. I am looking forward to the day when I can give my PowerPoint talk on the Underground Railroad in York County in this museum!
This glass covers the old hidden stairway to a separate cellar under the kitchen. It is believed that slaves descended these stairs into the chamber below and huddled there until Goodridge could safely them them out of York. When the museum is finished, a projection system will show a film clip on this glass of a refugee heading down the stairs.
Detail of an 1850 map of downtown York showing Market Street at the bottom with Philadelphia Street in the center. The Goodridge [spelled incorrectly on the map) home is the ell-shaped house in the center just west of the alley. Today this is a row of houses.