The Levi and Catharine Coffin Home in Fountain Metropolis, Ind., could seem off the crushed path for Civil Warfare aficionados, however that was not the case for 1000’s of enslaved folks in antebellum America, for whom it was a logo of unbelievable hope—appropriately labeled the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” within the 1840s. Immediately the restored home and its barn are a part of the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Web site, which additionally options an distinctive interpretive heart that helps put in perspective the very important position the Coffin household performed throughout the buildup to the Civil Warfare.
Initially from North Carolina, Levi Coffin and his spouse, Catharine, have been Quakers who strongly opposed slavery and finally moved to Indiana, the place they’d dwell for 20 years in what was identified on the time as Newport. The small city of Fountain Metropolis will not be removed from the Indiana–Ohio state line in Wayne County, about 93 miles northeast of Indianapolis through Interstate 70.
Abolitionist and slavery themes are current as quickly as you enter the Interpretive Heart. A dual-purpose timeline on the primary ground gives a take a look at the historical past of slavery and the regulation and likewise examines the wealthy Coffin household historical past. One of many first issues you will notice is a telling quote by Levi: “I date my conversion to Abolitionism from an incident which occurred after I was about seven years outdated. It made a deep and lasting impression on my thoughts, and created that horror of the cruelties of slavery which has been the motive of so many actions of my life.”
Regardless of the peril, Levi and Catharine have been totally dedicated to aiding freedom seekers make their strategy to Canada. They might assist liberate greater than 1,000 freedom seekers whereas they resided in Newport.
The Interpretive Heart’s second ground has a self-guided exhibit gallery titled “Souls Looking for Security,” the place the problem of telling such a wealthy story in a comparatively small area is greater than met. Images, graphics, textual content, and interactives within the gallery mix seamlessly for a rewarding expertise.
The interactives undertake each a bodily and passive strategy. Guests, for example, be taught the story of Henry “Field” Brown by lifting the lid of a replica of the crate that Brown used to ship himself to freedom, a journey lasting 27 hours. One other exhibit seems at Catharine’s stitching circle as its members talk about abolitionism. Probably the most highly effective interactive, nonetheless, is a cutaway replica of a false-bottomed wagon used to move freedom seekers to and from the Coffin Home. Putting your head within the hid rider’s area, you’ll be able to hear the sounds of the highway, together with a dialog between a wagon driver and bounty hunter.
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One other good function is a lighted map displaying key cities and the confluence of three main routes close to the Coffin Home that freedom seekers used to cross the Ohio River: Cincinnati, Ohio; Jeffersonville, Ind., and Madison, Ind. Close by Quaker settlements offering additional assist are proven.
As is the case in lots of such home excursions, there’s nice give attention to the Coffin Home’s structure and furnishings. The areas and voids inform a key story, as they offered freedom seekers refuge—areas during which they may cover, eat, sleep, and dream of freedom till the following leg of their journeys. Notably, guests enter the home via a facet door, the identical threshold that freedom seekers crossed within the nineteenth century.
The furnishings are primarily of the interval. The primary ground has a kitchen, a visitor room, and a stitching/sitting room the place Catharine’s stitching circle made garments for the liberty seekers. The kitchen space has a discreet curved staircase that guests can use to enter an upstairs bed room below the roof’s eave. The brief door within the shortest wall of the room gives entry to a garret, area able to housing as much as 14 freedom seekers. Guests can peer via the doorway to see that precarious hiding place.
Excursions of the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Web site are a strong expertise, effectively price your time. So far, reservations are required for excursions and numbers are restricted as a result of pandemic-related tips.
The Interpretive Heart is ADA-compliant; nonetheless, the Coffin Home does pose challenges for guests with restricted mobility. The employees makes each effort to offer full entry to the home, providing guests with mobility points alternate methods to realize entry to sure rooms, together with an alternate wider staircase to the higher ground and alternate entryways to the basement.
For these confined to wheelchairs, the primary ground is instantly accessible. Upon request, employees will present guests images or a hyperlink to a digital tour exploring the second ground.
To seek out out extra in regards to the Levi and Catharine Coffin Home State Historic Web site, go to indianamuseum.org/historic-sites/levi-catharine-coffin-house.