- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

MILTON, Wis. (AP) - The oldest building in Milton, and probably the first in the U.S. made of lime grout, is crumbling to ruin.

No, it’s not the Milton House.

It’s the city’s former blacksmith shop, the squat, square outbuilding just south of the Milton House.

The Milton Historical Society, which owns the old blacksmith shop, says the building is in critical need of repairs. The price tag could be as high as $350,000 or $400,000, according to the historical society.

The bulk of that cost would be to shore up and resurface the original lime grout, which workers improperly repaired with concrete and painted over with white swimming pool sealant in the 1950s.

That’s the last time significant work was done on the building, which Milton founder Joseph Goodrich built in 1840, four years before he built the Milton House inn.

A historic renovation contractor who quoted project costs says the building needed proper repairs five years ago. The historical society hopes to secure grants and matching funds to start repairs this summer or fall.

“It can’t be done soon enough. They (the contractor) told us they’re surprised it’s even standing still,” said Cori Olson, executive director of the Milton Historical Society and the Milton House.

Goodrich built the blacksmith shop as a model structure to test lime grout -an early form of concrete - that he’d developed using lime from a local quarry.

“He wanted to see if it worked before he used it to build the Milton House,” Olson told The Janesville Gazette (http://bit.ly/1sRK8hp).

That makes the shop likely the oldest building in Milton. Perhaps more significant, it’s likely the oldest lime grout building in the country, Olson said.

It was used as a blacksmith shop from the 1880s until about 1935. During the 1950s, it housed a laundromat and later a bait shop. The Milton Historical Society later bought it, but the group hasn’t done anything with it, other than use it to store old blacksmith equipment.

It’s not part of Milton House tours, although the historical society hopes it could be after repairs.

Now, the inside of the building is rife with rotting grout and small piles of bat guano. The interior walls of the 1,000-square-foot building have large cracks and pits where chunks of grout have crumbled out.

One side of the building has a small hole where weeds grow through and rainwater dumps inside.

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