North Lee County Historical Society Museums

Santa Fe Depot Museum

Use of photograph courtesy of Vernon Windsor, all rights reserved.

North Lee County
 Historical Society Museums

814 10th Street, Fort Madison, IA 52627
319-372-7661 | Email North Lee County Historical Society Museums

The North Lee County Historical Society museums are located in the Old Santa Fe Depot Complex between downtown Fort Madison and the Mississippi River. Staffed by dedicated volunteers, NLCHS is an active non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of the history of area, including historic buildings, documents, artifacts, and photographs. The museums offer tours of their displays, tourist information for the city, region and state, and curate both the Old Lee County Jail, and Brush College, a one-room schoolhouse north of town. The museums are open 360 days a year. Admission is free with donations and/or memberships greatly appreciated.

BNSF Swing-Span Double-Decker Bridge

BNSF Swing-Span Bridge

Photograph courtesy of Julie Long, all rights reserved. 

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge is an engineering marvel and in the Guinness Book of World's Records as the longest double-decker, swing-span bridge in the world. Completed in 1927, the bridge is 3,140 feet long, with a swing-span measuring 525 feet. The bridge open's more than 2,000 times a year, allowing barges and river traffic to pass up and down the Mississippi RIver.

The North Lee County Court House


Photograph courtesy of Steve Rippeteau, all rights reserved. 

Located at the corner of Avenue F & 7th Street, it is the oldest active courthouse in Iowa. The Fort Madison courthouse is one of two active seats of government in Lee County. Lee County is unique in this concept. They are the only county within the state of Iowa that has two seats of government. The building's four immense Tuscan columns accent the Greek Revival architecture that dates to the early 1840s.

North Lee County Jail

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Photograph courtesy of Steve Rippeteau, all rights reserved.

Built in 1867, this small jailhouse was used by the Lee County justice system into the 1970's. Patrons of North Lee County Historical Society can schedule tours in advance to see the structure. It is also opened every Halloween, during the city's Beggar's Night, where young and old can tour the old jail on the spookiest night of the year.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Depot - The CB&Q

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Photograph courtesy of Steve Rippeteau, all rights reserved. 

The CB&Q depot, at the corner of Avenue H and 10th Street, operated as part of what used to be the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway. On September 2, 1850, the first train chugged its uncertain way over six miles from Batavia, Illinois, north to Turner Junction and then eastward to Chicago. By 1864, the railroad had 400 miles of track and adopted the familiar name, CB&Q. Remnants of this early railroad lives on today in the name "BNSF", the Burlington portion being incorporated as part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway system in the 1970s. The building houses a transportation museum, covering the history of rail traffic, as well as information in regards to travel up and down the Mississippi RIver.

Santa Fe Way Car

Waycar BNSF Steve Rippeteau

Photograph Courtesy of Steve Rippeteau, all rights reserved. 

Patrons of the museum can tour the Way Car, known lovingly by most as "The Caboose". These historic train cars are no longer in use. The rail system now often uses locomotives at both the beginning and end of modern day trains, or a flashing rear-end device (FRED). Museums have become the keepers of these easily recognizable pieces of Americana.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) Steam Locomotive 2913

Engine 2913

Photograph courtesy of Steve Rippeteau, all rights reserved. 

The 708,000 pound locomotive, built in in 1944, was used to haul war equipment in the western region of the US. Gifted to the city of Fort Madison in 1959, it commemorates the first train that passed through the community, from Chicago to Kansas City.

Brush College

Brush College

Photograph courtesy of Steve Rippeteau, all rights reserved.

Located 2 miles north of Fort Madison, Brush College was built over one hundred years ago to replace the original log one-room school house. The building has been re-equipped with furnishings from 1885 to the 1890s. With little being known about the concept of Brush College, it should be noted that there are multiple structures throughout a number of states that go by the same name. It has been speculated that the name is derived from a curriculum that could be purchased for the young teachers to use. Tours of the location, which is outside of Fort Madison can be arranged through North Lee County Historical Society.