Des Moines County, which includes Burlington, Iowa, is an area of many different sites that you will enjoy experiencing. The Mississippi River borders the area with all the stories and beauty this magnificent river has to offer. It encompasses rich farmland where pioneers set their roots and made their home.
The Des Moines County Heritage Center opened in the former Burlington Public Library built in 1898 in 2009. The Museum has nine galleries on three levels, each addressing a different aspect of county history.
A pergola, reminiscent of the Texas deck on a steamboat, fills the Grand Gallery with a variety of exhibits. Some of these are permanent, and some change frequently; each offers a look at a slice of county history.
The 19th Century Gallery illustrates the growth of the small frontier territory into a lively and bustling city of the gaslight era.
The 20th Century Gallery, on the upper level, displays changing exhibits that address the events and social changes of the 1900s. The upper level is also home to Catfish Corners, a small scale frontier town dedicated to the exploration and play of children. Here they can milk the cow, gather the eggs, fish from the steamboat or trade at the general store. Imagination is the key and play is the thing in this child-sized exhibit.
Military history is the topic of the exhibit in the rotunda of the museum. Soldiers from Des Moines County have fought in each of the major wars since the Civil War; each war is represented in a small display in this gallery.
Agriculture, a farmer’s life, and ice cutting exhibits line the Agricultural Corridor, offering a look at the past and how farming affected the lives of those who lived in this mostly rural county.
Music is a magical part of the history of the county, especially in Burlington. A small town that had an opera house and many theaters was also home to composer/performer Bart Howard, most well-known for his hit song “Fly Me to the Moon.” In a night club style room dedicated to preserving cabaret music in America, exhibits and performers will make your toes tap.
Admission to The Heritage Center is free to members; other adults, $6; children, $3.
Heritage Center Hours
May through September: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, Noon – 5 p.m.
October through April: Wednesday through Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m.