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Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour

Origin and Development of the Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour

The Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour, held on May 14, 2005 at the Veteran’s Memorial on South Front Street. - From left to right are Todd Reedy, Bob Hickox, Bart Reichard, JimGuinne-Bailey, Amy Moyer, John Meckley, George Venios, Representative Merle Phillips, Joan Nunn, Fran Simko, Chuck Beck, Michael Longenberger, Robert Izer, Senator John Gordner, and Ray Rugh.

Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Milton Downtown Walking Tour

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The idea that ultimately evolved into the Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour was born in September 2004, when George Venios, President of the Milton High School Alumni Association, encountered Amy Moyer, President of The Improved Milton Experience (TIME), and Ray Rugh, former Chief of the Milton Fire Department, while all three were enjoying the annual Milton Harvest Festival activities. As a Milton historian, Venios knew that the 125th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1880 would occur in May 2005, and he told Moyer and Rugh that something “big” should be done to commemorate this anniversary, which also happened to be the 125th anniversary of the first graduation ceremonies for the Milton High School. As President of the Alumni Association, Venios had already been thinking about ways to appropriately celebrate the High School’s 125th milestone, and he proposed that the Fire Company and the Alumni Association should mark these two events together. Moyer, as President of TIME, which is a nonprofit downtown revitalization organization focusing on the Borough of Milton that had itself been in existence for less than a year, agreed that TIME should play a major role in the project.

Originally, Venios, Moyer, and Rugh envisioned an old-time Firemen’s Parade to commemorate the two anniversaries, but Venios felt strongly that something even grander and more permanent was in order. Having written two books about the “Chronicles and Legends of Milton,” Venios felt that some information about the Great Fire and the first High School Commencement could be presented to the community on permanent displays downtown. He discussed the idea with Betsy Davis and Deb Owens, members of the Milton Historical Society, who mentioned the idea of “walking tours” with historic information displays along the way that are found in many New England communities. The idea grew whenVenios met downtown with Bill Raup, a well-known local artist and authority on Milton history, and the two decided that the grassed area next to the sidewalk where the High School originally stood would be the perfect place for such a display. After realizing that very few other people in Milton knew where the High School once stood, they proposed that additional displays be established throughout the downtown, to tell residents and others about all of the schools, businesses, industries, churches, entertainment, and transportation formerly located throughout the bustling downtown area. As the original idea expanded exponentially, other volunteers suggested that this might be the perfect opportunity to honor all of Milton’s military veterans as well as Milton’s fire, police, and emergency personnel, two worthy groups of public servants whose contributions had recently been recognized by neighboring towns such as Sunbury, Northumberland, and Mifflinburg.

By December of 2004, the group of volunteers had drawn preliminary plans for a one-mile walking tour through the heart of downtown Milton. Fourteen sites on this route would be marked with displays to commemorate Veterans, Men and Women in Uniform, and Milton High School Alumni, as well as Milton’s businesses, industries, churches, transportation systems, the founding of the Borough of Milton, and Milton native and Pennsylvania Governor James Pollock. A very successful fundraising campaign was instigated, and planning for the showcase revitalization project continued. Additional partners willingly joined the Alumni Association, TIME, and the Fire Department to further develop and implement the project, including the Borough of Milton, the Milton Area School District, the Milton Rotary Club, Evangelical Community Hospital, the Milton Historical Society, and the Milton Garden Club. Many individuals and businesses generously contributed time, materials, labor, and funding to the project.

Groundbreaking occurred on May 14, 2005, as part of a day of festivities, which included a huge Firemen’s Parade through downtown Milton, marking the 125th anniversaries of the Great Milton Fire and the first Milton High School Commencement. Following an unbelievable amount of hard work during the summer of 2005, the Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour was dedicated on September 10, 2005, during the Milton Harvest Festival, one year to the day after George Venios, Amy Moyer, and Ray Rugh conceived the idea. Those founders, as well as the hundreds of others who became involved, maintain a sincere hope that the balanced combination of educational, recreational, and historic components that are situated along this one-mile route will provide enjoyment for Milton residents and visitors for generations to come.