Indiana’s Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad
Levi and Catharine Coffin were devout Quakers who believed slavery was antithetical to their faith. As a young boy of 7, Levi witnessed slaves being separated from their families and was terrified of the thought of his own father being separated from him. Levi Coffin grew, married Catharine Coffin, and moved to Indiana from North Carolina in 1926. It was after building their home in the little town of Fountain City, Indiana that their story really began – and where it is now told at the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site.
A visit to the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site is one that will make you think more critically about this grave time in America’s history. While you will tour the house and learn about how the Coffins were able to logistically hide and transport runaway slaves, it’s more about the human story. Learning about Levi and Catharine’s life work is inspiring for any generation facing injustice and inequality.
How do we know so much about Levi Coffin’s work on the Underground Railroad? He wrote an autobiography! His book, Reminisces of Levi Coffin, is even available on Kindle (less than $2)!
What to expect when visiting the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site
A trip to the site begins with a brief orientation video. This explains why Catharine and Levi were passionate about helping slaves to freedom.
After the movie, visitors are shown to a second-story museum. This interactive space shares more about slavery and the trials that runaway slaves went through in the hope of finding freedom. Our children, aged 9, 7, and 5 at the time of our visit, found plenty to keep them engaged and asking questions. I think any child over 5 would benefit from visiting the historic site.
Next, a guided tour of the Coffin home. The Coffin’s home has been regarded by some as the “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad. While it looks like an ordinary home for the 1800s, it does have a few items up its sleeve.
Interesting aspects of the Levi Coffin Home
#1 – The House has a side door with alley access. This made it easy for workers on the Underground Railroad to pull their wagon right up to the door without neighboring eyes seeing any suspicious activity.
#2 – The upstairs of the home contained a very long crawl space. While historians can not confirm that this area was used to hide slaves, it appears to be a very good spot! The access door was hidden by sliding a bed in front of it.
#3 – The basement of the home contains a second kitchen and an indoor well! It was atypical for homes of the day to have a second kitchen underground. Might Freedom Seekers have needed to use this area or did Mrs. Coffin require the extra space to prepare food for more than just her family? After all, the Coffins had seven children of their own, so adding a family of (former) slaves would easily require more prep space.
The indoor well was also not typical for the time period. If your home had 10+ people in it, you’d be constantly having to walk outside to fill buckets. An indoor well would have allowed the Coffins to have constant access to water without raising a brow from their neighbors.
Outside of the home, visitors can see what barn and a few restored wagons.
Things to Know Before You Visit the Levi Coffin House
A visit to the Levi and Catharine Coffin Historic Site takes approximately 2.5 hours. Before visiting, call to make sure there isn’t a school group visiting. Typically, when a school group is visiting, the museum is not capable of hosting more guests.
Restrooms are available in the Interpretive Center.
Like many historic sites, the Coffin’s home cannot accommodate a wheelchair or stroller. Stairs within the Coffin home are very steep so be prepared to help the very old or very young.
The Levi Coffin House is located at 201 US 27 North, Fountain City, Indiana.
Tours cost $10 for adult and $5 for children ages 3-17.
Looking for more history nearby? Check out the Huddleston House (tours available by appointment).
Have you been to any fascinating Underground Railroad Sites? The Levi Coffin House is a must-visit!
**Our visit to the Coffin House was hosted by Visit Richmond. All opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links.**