People who grew up in Verona will likely remember the front facade of the former Dane County Asylum as the first major landmark to come across when approaching the city from the east. In 2004, the oldest part of this iconic building was demolished, having long been known to be beyond repair.
But what was not known, said Verona Area Historical Society president Jesse Charles, was that a treasure trove of genealogical information was stored there in the basement, and was nearly lost in the rubble.
At this month’s VAHS meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at the senior center, people will get a chance to hear all about it from former Badger Prairie Healthcare Center employee Sandy Everson, who visited the abandoned halls of the old structure in the weeks before demolition. There, she discovered a forgotten basement records room still containing admissions and patient records from the asylum dating back to the 1800s.
She saved and organized the files, which Charles said have been “valuable to genealogists as well as to our asylum cemetery restoration project.”
Everson will discuss her effort to save this important history, and show off many dozens of pictures she took of the asylum demolition.
At last month’s meeting, Verona Area High School teacher Matt Tiller presented a history of the school forest and related natural topics like Whalen Pond. Tiller started working with the City at Harriet Park in 1998, when he proposed that the city install a retention pond and incorporate native prairie plants.
Vegetation was planted to filter the storm water and slow it down so it can drop its sediments before entering the Sugar River Watershed. Tiller’s students collect water samples and use a soil probe to test some of the areas around retention ponds and found dark mineral soil and 18 more inches of more dark rich soil from farming runoff and erosion. The water from the retention ponds goes into the Sugar River, eventually into the Rock River, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
The new Verona Area High School under construction will have a new forest, called Stewart Woods. Tiller said new plants will be installed there and the water will go into the Sugar River.