Caretaker’s House

Aerial photo by William Cronon.

Along the western edge of Caretaker’s Woods, look for a worn cement foundation that can serve as a window into a time decades ago when this land was part of a large agricultural estate. This was once the property of Edward Young, and on this foundation stood the small house of the man who served as his caretaker.

Although the details are sketchy, the building probably dated to the 1930s or 1940s, and its occupant was responsible for pruning the orchard, keeping the roads cleared of snow in the winter, locking up the Picnic Point gate at night, and making sure university students weren’t up to too many shenanigans. More than one residence stood on this site, but it was destroyed by fire in 1972 and today only this foundation remains.

The forest to the east is still called Caretaker’s Woods in honor of the hard-working resident of this building.

Today, we have all become the caretakers of these forests and fields. This lovely site, nestled into the slope below one of the highest points in the Preserve, is a great place to take in the pastoral beauty of the mowed grass below the old apple orchard, or to wander up to the crest of the hill to look out over Caretakers Woods to the sweeping view of Lake Mendota.