Released December 8, 2016

New Interpretive Center to Showcase Arc of Indiana’s Underground Railroad Past


Contact: Paige Southerland, 317.234.5078, [email protected]

FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind. — Today, The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, in conjunction with the Levi Coffin House Association, hosted a ribbon-cutting for the new 5,156-square-foot, state-of-the-art Interpretive Center and announced the renaming of the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site (formerly the Levi Coffin State Historic Site.) The Center will open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. The Interpretive Center has been built as part of the larger, five-phase, statewide INVision campaign at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

The Center, featured by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the 12 new museums to visit in 2016, will showcase the poignant story of Fountain City’s connection to the Underground Railroad in Indiana. The Center is located at 201 N. U.S. 27, and is adjacent to the historic home in Fountain City.

“The new Center symbolizes and celebrates the spirit and enduring courage of freedom seekers – escaped slaves – and 19th-century anti-slavery activists Levi and Catharine Coffin, as well as their home, which serves as one of the best-documented and important Underground Railroad sites in the United States,” said Joanna Hahn, Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site manager. “The site saw more than 1,000 freedom seekers pass through en route to freedom.”

The $3.8 million facility features a new exhibition, Souls Seeking Safety: Bringing Indiana’s Underground Railroad Experience to Life, which puts the Coffins’ work in national context and shares the voices and experiences of the freedom seekers. It also explains how individuals battled the economics that supported slavery through the Free Labor movement, a precursor for today’s Fair Trade efforts, and Levi and Catharine Coffin’s significant work in this area. The site was renamed to honor the work of both the Coffins, who dedicated their lives to eradicating slavery and inequality. The new interpretive center also has an orientation area, expanded gift shop and offices.

“Visitors now have the opportunity to explore more fully what Levi Coffin called the ‘Mysterious Road.’ They’ll review the conscious choices made by those whose stories are told through a dynamic exhibition and consider how they might have responded themselves,” said Susannah Koerber, ISMHS senior vice president of Collections and Interpretation.

Admission to the Center is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for children (ages 3 to 17).

Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more and for school groups. Tours may be scheduled in advance by calling 765.847.2432.

For more details on the new Center and its programs, please call Joanna Hahn at 812.345.2745, email her at [email protected] or visit the website

The exhibition, Souls Seeking Safety: Bringing Indiana’s Underground Railroad Experience to Life has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.


When the visitor center opens, the site will have a full-time staff member allowing the site to be open year round. Anticipated hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

From the outside, it looks like a normal, beautifully-restored, Federal-style brick home built in 1839. 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. On the inside, however, it has some unusual features that served an important purpose in American history.

Most rooms in the home have at least two ways out, there is a spring-fed well in the basement for easy access to water, plenty of room upstairs allowed for extra visitors, and large attic and storage garrets on the side of the rear room made for convenient hiding places. 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.

The historic building is a National Historic Landmark and is operated by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corporation, Inc. The house contains many original furniture pieces from the Newport community and the Coffin family.

As our 150th Anniversary approaches in 2019, we’re pursuing a bold plan to transform our museum and 11 historic sites into places that not only reflect our past, but lead us into the future. We’ll be making changes and improvements at all 12 of our sites in a four-year, five-phase plan that culminates in the museum’s 150th anniversary year in 2019. For more information about the INVision campaign or to make a donation, visit

#     #     #

The Indiana State Museum is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It is Indiana’s museum for science, art and culture, offering a place where you can celebrate, investigate, remember, learn and take pride in Indiana’s story in the context of the broader world. Even the building is a showcase of the best Indiana has to offer in architecture, materials and sculpture. Easy and convenient parking is available in the attached underground garage.