Heritage Hill restoring shack to tell stories of migrant workers

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 5:49 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ALLOUEZ, Wis. (WBAY) - A unique restoration is underway at Heritage Hill State Historical Park that, when completed, will pay tribute to the history of this area’s migrant Hispanic families.

In July of 2017, Antonio Saldana showed us the little cabin he lived in with his parents and 13 brothers and sisters when they migrated to Oconto County each summer to pick cucumbers for the Bond Pickle Company.

“It was very, very difficult. It was not easy,” he recalled. “I want people to remember that there’s a lot of people that are wealthy because of the hard work that we did -- and I started doing this type of work when I was 4 years old.”

Shortly after our story aired, Antonio lobbied Heritage Hill State Park to take over his childhood cabin.

Four years later, the migrant cabin is being brought to life.

“Our team of restorationists are working real hard to put this back together so that we can use it as an interpretive tool and tell a story that perhaps isn’t well known, and that is the story of migrant workers, agricultural migrant workers in Wisconsin,” Heritage Hill executive director Michael Telzrow said.

“Majority of the structural integrity is still there, majority of the historical material is still there, so we do have a lot to work with, however it is a lot to do,” Nick Backhaus, director of operations, said.

After disassembling the structure into panels and transporting them to Heritage Hill, Backhaus assessed and measured every structural component of the 14-foot by 24-foot cabin. Only rotted wood is being replaced.

“We take the approach to save as much of the historical material as we possibly can because that’s the soul of the building,” Backhaus said.

Sadly, Antonio passed away last fall.

But once on permanent display at Heritage Hill, his family’s cabin will be the first structure on the grounds representing Hispanic-Americans.

“This really does bring to fruition his dream of having that moved here so it can be an educational tool and an inspiration to students, to everyone who visits Heritage Hill State Park,” Telzrow said.

The migrant cabin will be on permanent display at Heritage Hill beginning next July.

Copyright 2021 WBAY. All rights reserved.