This weekend is filled with festivities at Gordon Hall starting this evening to celebrate the coming of the railroad in Dexter 175 years ago.
Gordon Hall Days are being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday to commemorate this achievement, which was led by Dexter Founder Judge Samuel Dexter. The railroad was established in 1841, giving Dexter two more expedient (than roads) methods of trade and travel.
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 brought people and goods to Dexter down the Huron River and Mill Creek. Dexter had just been started a year prior in 1824.
“Judge Dexter was very interested in growth for the village,” said Dexter Area Historical Society member Nancy Van Blaricum.
A railroad was the surest way to ensure growth in the communities that it crossed through in Judge Dexter’s day. In fact, 28 years later the first transcontinental railroad was built in America in the years prior to the beginning of the Civil War.
“He was very interested in transcontinental railroads,” Van Blaricum said of Judge Dexter. He spoke to newspapers of the day on the topic, prior to giving public remarks at the grand opening of Dexter’s railroad.
Today’s Dexter Area Historical Society isn’t even the first group of Dexterites to celebrate the railroad in Dexter.
In 1941 the community put on a “grand celebration” of both the railroad and Gordon Hall, the latter or which had been completed renovated at that time, according to Van Blaricum.
“This celebration is a continuation of that,” explained Bev Hill, DAHS president.
The Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club will join the society in the festivities. They will provide small-scale trains for students to watch. There will also be little railroad cars that kids can ride in, and later in the weekend there will be a ball to attend to cap off the weekend.
Right now the society is having exterior work done to Gordon Hall, which is being partially paid for by the state with a $125,000 matching grant against $80,000 in society funds.
For a full list of events and opportunities afforded at Gordon Hall over the course of the celebration, see below.
Gordon Hall Days Schedule of Events
Friday Evening, June 10
6:30 to 10 p.m. — Lemonade Stand – Popcorn
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. — Dexter Community Band Group – front porch
7:30 to 8 p.m. — 1st Graders – front porch
Movie 8:15 p.m. — Kids movie (The General with Buster Keaton) and 9:45 p.m. Adult Movie (The Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery & Donald Sutherland) (large tent behind hall)
Saturday 10 to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 to 5 p.m.
Parking and Ticket Booth 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — $5 per person or $15 per car
Antique vehicles — Tally-Ho, Fire truck, Oil Pull, Doctor’s buggy, Mitchell’s Old Hearse, Jim Brady’s 1936 tractor, Art Farley’s 1928 motorcycle, Old Cars from Colby Bates and Larry Stalker.
Steam Engine Display — Michigan Small Scale Live Steamers
In Gordon Hall
1941 Room — Celebrating the 1941 Centennial of the Railroad
RR History Room, Richard Ashley — History of the Railroad in Dexter
2nd Floor Train setup — Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club — Running trains and History
Information Booth 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. — (In front of hall)
Raffle Tickets 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. — (In front of hall)
Gift Shop – train related gifts for all ages, books, throw, etc. (In front of hall)
Lemonade Stand times – Friday 6:30 to 10 p.m. – Saturday 10 – 5 & Sunday 11 – 4 (In front of hall)
Children’s games 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — (Southside of hall)
Little Conductors Mini-Train rides – Sat. 12 to 4 p.m. and Sun. 12 to 3 p.m. — Free
Storytelling – Barb Locks (Sat. 11 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m. and impromptu stories through the day)
Open House at the Railroad Depot – open 12 to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
Schedule of Daily Activities – Saturday, June 11th
Food – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Hotel Hickman Chuckwagon Barbecue (In front of hall)
10 a.m. — “History of the Chicago-Detroit Mainline” – John Guidinger (in large tent)
11 a.m. — Dexter Dulcimer Group (in front tent )
11 a.m. — Storyteller Barb Locks in the Children’s area
12 p.m. — “Rebuilding the Amtrak Chicago-Detroit Railroad” – John Guidinger (in large tent)
1 p.m. — KDMc Tea – in large tent – Alice Ralph sharing the life of Katharine Dexter McCormick, the Granddaughter of Samuel & Millicent Dexter. Fashion Show with 1800 – 1900 clothing presented by Helen Welford. Hot & cold tea and cookies will be served. Price – $5 – Limited tickets to be sold.
2 p.m. — Music – Community Band group (on front porch)
3 p.m. — North-South Commuter Rail from Ann Arbor to Howell – Clark Charnetski
4 p.m. — Gordon Darr Students in front tent or on front porch
7 to 10 p.m. — Railroad Workers Ball – Historic Country Dancing With Teaching Dance Master – Robin Warner & The Whistle Stop Players. Hearty hors d’oeuvres, desserts, beverages and spirits will be served. Price – $50 each with family price of $125 for ages 12 and above.
Schedule of Daily Activities – Sunday, June 12th
Food – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Dexter Riverview Cafe (In front of hall)
11 to 11:30 a.m. — Musical Revival service – Dulcimers (in front tent)
11:30 a.m. — “The Third Generation: Life on the Railroad” – Rahn L. Stokes (in large tent)
12:30 to 1 p.m. — Pie Auction in front tent
1 p.m. Music — Community Orchestra Group on front porch
1 p.m. — Storyteller Barb Locks in the Children’s area
1 to 3 p.m. — Horseshoes Sunday – place TBD
2 p.m. — The Underground Railroad in Washtenaw County” – Deborah Meadows (in large tent)
2 to 4 p.m. — Base Ball Game – way down in front
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