It turns out history does exist in Woodbury — you just need a map and a smartphone compass equipped with latitude-longitude coordinates to find it.
“Woodbury never had that downtown area, there never was a railroad or a depot, you don’t have those institutions,” said Bill Schrankler, vice president of the nonprofit Woodbury Heritage Society. “It was basically a farming area, with blacksmiths’ shops and the like.”
People who pick up maps next weekend for a tour that the heritage society has organized of the city’s historic sites will find coordinates to guide them, as well as signage.
The Sept. 24 tour is part of Woodbury’s 50th anniversary as an incorporated city in 1967, which happened after a long existence as a rural township with a smattering of farmyards and churches dotting the landscape here and there.
A lot of baby boomers who grew up in Woodbury remember what’s now a freshly minted suburb as the farmland home of pop music powerhouse KDWB radio, whose studios and towers were located on Radio Drive. Thus the name of one of the city’s main arterials, even though the station itself is gone.
That’s why it’s all the more important, preservationists say, to mark out, save and spread the word about the remnants of the city’s distant pioneer past that still do exist.
Ten sites will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants will get a “passport” along with a map and itinerary at the first stop, at the society’s Heritage House at Radio Drive and Lake Road in Marsh Creek Park.
Those participants with more than five stamps from the different sites will get a “special prize,” which officials described as a book valued at $40.
The tour includes 19th-century homes occupied by owners who have agreed to let folks stop in and take a look around. It closes at the Miller Barn, one of the last still standing within the city limits, where ice cream, cake, beverages and coupons will be available.
The society has been working with city officials to ensure that Miller Barn doesn’t get demolished and that the nonprofit gets a chance to find the money to save it.
“We’re aiming for a half-million dollar endowment and we’re still fundraising for that,” Schrankler said. “We’d love to have people leave something in the donation box, but that’s not the main idea; we want people to be able to visit it.”
Site No. 4 is the Charles Spangenberg Farmstead, which contains the only buildings in the city to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is at 9431 Dale Road.
“The couple who own it are so proud of it and should be,” Schrankler said. “There’s been an addition to the original house but the facade is still the same, although a couple of outbuildings went away — the well house, the milk house, whatever. Spangenberg’s brother built an almost identical house in Highland Park [in St. Paul].”