Levi Coffin House
Levi Coffin House
|Location||Fountain City, Indiana|
|NRHP Reference #||66000009|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||June 23, 1965|
The Levi Coffin House is a National Historic Landmark located in present-day Fountain City, Indiana. The two-story, eight room, brick house was constructed in 1839 in the Federal style and served as a station on the Underground Railroad.
Levi Coffin, and his wife Catharine, helped as many as 2,000 former slaves escape to freedom in the free states and Canada during the 20 years that they lived in the house. In fact, Levi has been referred to as the President of the Underground Railroad. The Coffins were Quakers, a denomination that led in the fight against slavery. Underground Railroad conductors brought slaves up through Kentucky, and they primarily crossed the Ohio River at three points: Madison, Indiana; Jeffersonville, Indiana; and Cincinnati, Ohio. After their crossing, many of the slaves were brought to the Levi Coffin House until they could be transported further north. The slave girl, Eliza, whose story is told in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, was one of the slaves who stayed at this way station.
Authorities were never able to search the house and discover runaway slaves, because whenever a slavecatcher would come to the house, Coffin would demand to see a search warrant, which required a 26-mile round trip to the county seat of Centerville to acquire, by which time the fugitive slave would be long gone. If the house had ever been searched, secret doors within could hide as many as 14 fugitive slaves. The Coffins were careful not to keep records, as it was criminal behavior, but it is speculated that 2,000 fugitive slaves had been at the house from 1826 to 1847.
The Coffins moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to open a warehouse that supplied free labor businesses, at the request of fellow abolitionists.
The state government of Indiana acquired the house in 1967, and opened it to the public in 1970 after restoration. This was not difficult, as the owners since Coffin kept it in excellent shape. The restoration was done by Himelick Construction of Fountain City. The house is open to the public, and is operated by the Levi Coffin House Association at the behest of Indiana DNR. An additional house close to the Coffin House is being restored to act as an interpretive center for the Coffin Home.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Coffin, Levi, House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- Joseph S. Mendinghall and S. Sydney Bradford (September 26, 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Levi Coffin Home". National Park Service. and Accompanying five photos, from 1975
- Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- Conn, Earl L. (2006). My Indiana:101 Places to See. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 70–71.