National Historic District – Downtown Fort Madison

Stroll the streets of a Victorian river-town, with wonderful examples of architecture from the Second Empire style of the 1870s through Art Modern and Art Deco in the 1940s.  The periods of interest consist of 1950-1974, 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899, 1850-1874.  The buildings are all privately owned, used for business and commerce purposes.

The area is centered on Ave. G from 6th to 9th Street and Ave. H from 7th to 9th.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an entire Historic District, downtown Fort Madison is a vibrant community with a diverse population and locally owned shops and boutiques. The district is currently in the process of downtown revitalization with the Main Street program.

Not only is the Historic District something you will enjoy seeing but stroll on down toward the river where you will see where Fort Madison was located in 1808-1813.  It was the first permanent U.S. military fortification on the Upper Mississippi.

Included in the historic district is the Iowa State Penitentiary Cell houses.  The penitentiary was built in 1839 and served as a territorial prison prior to the time that Iowa became a state.  The original cell block is still in use today and several of the cell houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are nearly 900 inmates housed in the prison.  This is the only maximum security prison in Iowa.

Another interesting place is the Greek Revival North Lee County Courthouse which was built in 1840.  It is the oldest courthouse in continuous use in Iowa.  In 1847 the Iowa Legislature granted Keokuk a concurrent jurisdiction making Lee County the only Iowa county with two county seats.

The Old Santa Fe Depot is a Mission Revival style depot which was built in 1909 and currently houses the North Lee County Historical Museum.  The museum is filled with history of Fort Madison and offers you the opportunity to see and learn about railroad history, there is a Civil War display, farming exhibits and some arrowheads and other things of the past. 

Come and visit Fort Madison, explore the past and visit the present.

Main Street Office:
614 9th Street, Fort Madison, IA 52627

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