A REFUGE FOR FREEDOM SEEKERS
From the outside it looks like a normal, beautifully-restored, Federal-style brick home built in 1839. On the inside, however, it has some unusual features that served an important purpose in American history. This eight-room home served as a safe haven for more than 1,000 freedom seekers on their journey to Canada. Levi and Catharine Coffin’s home became known as “The Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.”
Being a Quaker home, the Coffin house would not have had many of the era’s decorative features such as narrow columns, delicate beading or dentil trim. During the 20 years they lived in Newport (now Fountain City), the Coffins worked to provide transportation, shelter, food and clothing to more than 1,000 freedom seekers. Many of their stories are told in Levi Coffin’s 1876 memoir, Reminiscences.
For their journeys north, freedom seekers often used three main routes to cross from slavery to freedom—through Madison or Jeffersonville in Indiana, or Cincinnati, Ohio. From these points, slaves traveled to Newport through the Underground Railroad. The Coffins’ “station” was so successful that every person who passed through eventually reached freedom.
The location of the house, on Highway 27 at the center of an abolitionist Quaker community, allowed the entire community to act as lookouts for the Coffins and give them plenty of warning when bounty hunters came into town.
“I had already risked every thing in the work – life, property, and reputation – and did not feel bound to respect human laws that came in direct contact with the law of God.”
See why this is named one of the top 25 historic sites in the nation!
The Coffin House was ranked by The History Channel as “one of the nation’s Top 25 Historical Sites.” In 2016, the Smithsonian named the Levi Coffin House Interpretive Center as “one of 12 new museums around the world to visit,” while the Indiana Office of Tourism Development voted it as one of the top museums in the State of Indiana. Come see why.
Explore our Interpretive Center
Here you will learn about the history behind this historic site in an orientation video. Afterwards, tour the building to learn even more about the Coffins’ role in helping thousands find their way to freedom.
Experience the Underground Railroad
Lay your head in a mock false-bottom wagon to hear sounds of what it would have been like hiding in one of these escape tools. Try to lift a cotton bale, and learn about how slaves worked about one week to pick enough cotton for one bale.
Tour this Historic Landmark
Enjoy a guided tour of the actual home where the Coffins housed so many freedom seekers. Inside you’ll find unique features like a basement kitchen, a spring-fed well in the basement, and large attic and storage garrets on the side of the rear room that served as convenient hiding places.
Explore Unique Artifacts
Escaping slaves were well hidden for their travels in wagons like this one, equipped with false-bottoms and used to transport freedom seekers to the next safe house.
True Stories from the Underground Railroad
Eileen Baker-Wall grew up in Fountain City and has been a longtime volunteer at the site. The shoe she is holding belonged to her great-great grandfather William Bush. Stories of her grandfather were passed down in her family, ones that tell of William’s escape from slavery in North Carolina, sometime in the 1840s. According to family stories, part of William’s escape included hiding inside a wooden crate that was supposedly shipped to Levi Coffin in Newport (now Fountain City).
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Plan Your Trip
Wednesday – Sunday
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays*, Tuesdays, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Open *Martin Luther King Jr. Day (FREE), *President’s Day (FREE), *Memorial Day, *Labor Day.
Open for preregistered programs only on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Call site for local Spring and Fall Break hours.
If you plan on visiting the site during the months school is in session, Wednesday through Friday, please call ahead. Due to a number of school group visits, guided tours of the Coffin home may be limited. Please call ahead to find out if your visit may be impacted.Purchase Tickets
Special discounts are available for educators and education groups, military, Access Pass holders and more. View all discounts >>
Due to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, we are offering special timed, indoor tours for a maximum of 10 people daily, Wednesday through Sunday. At this time, pre-purchased online tickets cannot be made for specific days. To reserve a spot on the day you wish to enjoy the walking tour, please call in advance at 765.847.1691. The schedule is as follows:
Guided indoor tours
10:30 to 11:30 a.m. & 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Guided walking tour of Fountain City (weather permitting; pre-registration required by calling 765.847.1691)
3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday & Saturday
$5 per person or $10 for families of four or more.
Historic Newport Walking Tour
The historic community of Newport, Indiana (now Fountain City) was well known in the decades before the Civil War as a place of safety for freedom seekers, or runaway slaves. Levi and Catharine Coffin were instrumental in providing this support, but there were others who worked with the Quaker couple to keep freedom seekers hidden and moving north. On this walking tour, guests will visit certain sites in town and learn how Newport worked together as part of the Underground Railroad. The tour will also emphasize what the town was like when the Coffins were residents.
In 2019, Fountain City received a designation on the National Register as a historic district. This community, which started in the early 1800s, has a variety of buildings and homes that show a range of architectural styles. Enjoy a fun and engaging scavenger hunt as a family as you try and find and identify great historic features. Return your answers to the Levi and Catharine Coffin Interpretive Center for a keepsake! Families can enjoy this scavenger hunt starting in July 2020. Just come to the Levi and Catharine Coffin Interpretive Center gift shop and ask how to participate. Cost is $2 per family.
Field trip admission is free for pre-scheduled, accredited schools and homeschool groups of 10 or more Indiana K-12 students. Call 765.847.1691 to schedule your visit. Non-Indiana school groups pay a $2 per person admission rate for a pre-registered visit.
Academic topics covered include abolitionism, Underground Railroad in Indiana, slavery and law.
Learn more about field trip and school program offerings in the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites PreK-12 Education Program Guide. View guide >>
If you are a photographer looking to book a shoot at Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, please review our commercial photography policy and application process. Learn more >>
LOOKING TO BOOK A FIELD TRIP?
Help bring history, science, art and education to life for your students with a one-of-a-kind field trip experience. All state historic sites support Indiana Academic Standards, and feature a variety of academic topics. Call 765.847.1691 to schedule your visit to Levi & Catharine Coffin House.Learn More in Our Educator Program Guide
201 U.S. 27 North, Fountain City, IN 47341
On U.S. 27, look for a two-story white building with a brown sign that says “Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site”.
Upcoming Things To Do
Sep 23, 2020 6:30 pm - 8:00 pmLevi & Catharine Coffin
Courageous Conversations: Surviving the First Year of Life
Sep 26, 2020 5:00 pm - 6:30 pmLevi & Catharine Coffin
The Physician: Sue King Taylor
Oct 10, 2020 6:30 pm - 8:00 pmLevi & Catharine Coffin
Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement
Oct 14, 2020 6:30 pm - 8:00 pmLevi & Catharine Coffin
Exploring Women's Suffrage through 50 Historic Objects
Oct 15, 2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pmLevi & Catharine Coffin
Journey Beyond the Notes
Oct 24, 2020 6:30 pm - 8:00 pmLevi & Catharine Coffin
The "Undefeatable" Grace Julian Clarke