Michael Goodman has owned his 18th century stone house in Lawrence Park for over a year now. But to open up a 300-yard long tunnel, he has a lot of work ahead of him.
He is not sure of the condition of the tunnel because it has been sealed off by a layer of bricks. But he plans to start removing those soon.
Goodman’s plan is to restore the tunnel, if it’s safe enough, so people can see what is believed to be the pathway to freedom slaves took over 150 years ago.
“There’s been a lot of wrongs in the past,” Goodman said. “Hopefully we can make a lot of wrongs right, and me redoing this house is part of it.”
The tunnel starts in his basement, then funnels out into a creek. But a previous owner sealed it up with bricks several decades ago because kids were sneaking into her home.
Goodman believes slaves started off at the Wesley Methodist Church, which was part of the Underground Railroad.
“They held onto them until it was safe to bring them on down here,” Goodman said. “Then, when it was safe at night, they would take them to the creek, down the creek to the lake, then over to Canada to the safe area.”
Goodman said many people stop by and talk to him about the tunnel.
“I actually have this one girl that was really interested in her heritage, and they were asking me a lot of questions about it. So, I told them once I open it up and it’s safe, she going to be the first one to come through.”
Local historian George Deutsch said Erie has always played a role in the freedom movement.
“It’s just that it’s very difficult to verify anything,” Deutsch said, “because people did not write it down. They did not publicize it.”
Deutsch went on to say Erie was a transit point, but many ex-slaves stayed here in the 1850s because Erie was very welcoming, compared to other places.
He added many people in the area falsely believe they own parts of the Underground Railroad, but he is pretty sure all the facts point to Goodman’s property being authentic.
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