York’s Goodridge House listed as site on Underground Railroad network
Crispus Attucks’ Cindy Leiphart is surrounded by a dirt room beneath the floor in the William C. Goodridge house in York. Fugitives may have used a trapdoor in the kitchen floor to hide in this room, part of the Underground Railroad. Background posts: Research needed to unearth Underground Railroad, Part II, 10 years ago, York’s exclusive Lafayette Club became less exclusive, Part II , William C. Goodridge: From slavery to success story
Efforts to turn the home of William C. Goodridge into an Underground Railroad museum are sitting on a siding while sponsors are searching for funds.
But a recent York Daily Record/Sunday News story telling about these funding woes revealed that the site is listed with the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
That means that there has been some outside-the-county scrutiny of the home of Goodridge – a former slave who became a successful 19th-century York businessman -as an Underground Railroad site.
It and the Willis House are the only sites in York County to be so listed… .
This home of William Goodridge will become a museum.
The Network to Freedom program provides Underground Railroad education, gives technical assistance to organizations working on sites and develops a network of Underground Railroad sites, according to the story.
The story continued:
Applications are accepted twice each year. In order to be listed as a site, documentation proving a connection to the Underground Railroad must be submitted, said Sheri Jackson of the National Park Service. A committee reviews applications and votes.
For more on the program, visit Network to Freedom.
The National Park Service is offering a valuable program in helping communities document suspected Underground Railroad sites, which by definition were not publicized.
Reporter Angie Mason’s mainbar story tells more about the Goodridge house:
In an old kitchen in an East Philadelphia Street home, planks of wood cover a stairwell leading to a small dirt room believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad.
By next year, visitors could peer into that room to see a multimedia presentation that re-creates a time when slaves hid there.
But efforts to turn the York house into the William C. Goodridge Freedom House and Underground Railroad Museum are stalled while money is raised for the project.
“We’re kind of at a standstill because of not having funding,” said Cindy Leiphart of the Crispus Attucks Association, which owns the building.
The house, which was home to slave-turned-businessman William C. Goodridge in the mid-19th century, was given to Crispus Attucks more than a decade ago to be turned into a museum.
Exhibits will focus on Goodridge himself as well as the Underground Railroad, Leiphart said.
“One of our goals is to show how Goodridge, who was born a slave, overcame tremendous obstacles and became one of the wealthiest men in York at the time,” she said.
The home will include information about him as well as audio-visual elements so that visitors will see and hear area residents portraying runaway slaves.
Much of the work done on the building so far has been on the exterior and structure, Leiphart said.
The building’s apartment elements were removed, and it was turned back into a single-family house.
The roof was repaired, and a summer kitchen was restored. Renovations from the 1970s were removed. The wiring was upgraded, and termite and water damage were repaired.
But there’s more work to be done on the interior.
The house will be restored to its look in the early 1900s, when architect Rhinehart Dempwolf owned it, because there aren’t any records to show what it looked like when Goodridge lived there, Leiphart said.
Wm. Lee Smallwood, a former city councilman involved with the effort, said there are artifacts and exhibits waiting to be used.
But the last penny available has been spent, and it will cost about $100,000 to $200,000 more to finish the museum, he said.
The project recently received a $50,000 federal grant, but it requires a local match.
A few fundraisers, including the upcoming Emancipation Proclamation Celebration, are being planned, Smallwood said. He hopes that an endowment can be established so there will be money to care for the museum in the future.