May 21st 1997, the house is lifted and moved to its current location in Riley Park.

the banks family and the underground railroad

The Rescue

Area residents spearheaded a movement to save the historic home when it was announced it would be destroyed in August of 1996 to make way for a commercial development. The Friends of the Foster Farmhouse, under the 501c3 non-profit status  of the Lakes Area Community Foundation for Children, Youth, and Families persuaded the developers to sell the house to the City .  The house was physically picked up and moved to  Riley  Park less than a mile down Pontiac Trail on May 21, 1997. The preservation effort and the history of the house are documented in text, photographs, news clippings, and a videotape of the PBS documentary "Preservision: Moving Day."


             The Banks-Dolbeer-Bradley-Foster Farmhouse tells the remarkable story of the Banks family and their descendants. Freeborn Henry Banks built the original log cabin in the 1830s along a trail blazed by Native Americans. During the 1840s the Banks family rebuilt the house in the Greek Revival style and then in the 1850s added on to remodel the house into the Italianate style. Family members that lived in the home confirm that the house was a “depot” on the “Underground Railroad” before the Civil War. Two of the Banks' sons fought in the Civil War. A daughter, Dr. Sarah Gertrude Banks, a descendant of the Mayflower's Miles Standish, was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School, becoming one of the first female physicians in the state. Dr. Banks was the personal physician to many prominent people including Mrs. Henry (Clara) Ford. She was also a personal friend of Susan B. Anthony and was active in the suffrage movement.

The house in its original location 1996

The Banks-Dolbeer Historic Home

     The Farmhouse is a pathway that can take you from the present to the past. From the Native Americans who lived on the land, to early pioneers who settled it, to people who fought to relieve human suffering and seek equal rights of all. The Farmhouse leads us through many periods of local history and is a potent symbol of American dreams. Through your efforts, the house is free to stand as a lasting tribute to courage and the pursuit of liberty and peace.


Dr. Sarah Gertrude Banks pictured right

Jun. 11, 1839 - Jan 10, 1926

Physician. Teacher, Suffragette.

In a published documentary article by Dr. Judith Mendelsohn Rood, PH.D states that,

“The Banks family, like the majority of the people involved in the Underground were not likely to leave paper trails of their activities or identify their underground contacts. The aiding and abetting of fugitive slaves in the United States during the nineteenth century was after all a highly controversial and illegal activity punishable by fine, branding, incarceration, and enslavement. It is thus neither surprising nor accidental that we lack consolidated and detailed written records about the process. Oral traditions fill a great void in the largely unwritten history of the Underground Railroad, and can contain valuable references to names, dates, and locations, events and connections which can be documented in written primary and secondary sources. “ 

Sacred History, January/February, 2007, Vol.  3 Issue 1, pages 40-51. 


Recently, work has been done to improve the exterior of the house. Fresh paint and flowers can go a long way.

For more Walled Lake history visit the Walled Lake City Library.