Present Preservation Projects

Winterset Facade Rehabilitation Project

In 2017, a $500,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, along with a very large investment from the City of Winterset, allowed 17 facades (store fronts/sides) to be rehabilitated.  The buildings were selected based on their condition, their location – defining the look and feel of the Courthouse Historic District, and their owners interest in contributing to the cost.  As a result, brick walls have been taken down and rebuilt, windows have been boarded up and replaced, and new paint has spruced up tired colors.  The result will be beautiful, historically correct rehabilitated buildings that contribute to the authenticity of the Courthouse Historic District.

County Cemetery Restoration

Nearly half of Madison County’s 60 cemeteries are considered “Pioneer Cemeteries” – with 12 or less burials in the last 50 years. A handful of these are in dire need of assistance to maintain the gravestones and graveyard. This would be done in conjunction with the Township Trustees and Madison County Genealogical Society’s ongoing work of documenting graves in all Madison County cemeteries.

Farris Cemetery was chosen as our focus to learn more about the process of accessing the area, understanding who is buried, locating and repairing stones, and caring for the cemetery in the future.  We have used scientific (ground-penetrating radar) and unscientific (grave witching) to help devise a method that can be used to care for other Pioneer Cemeteries.  The Commission is working closely with the Union Township Trustees, descendants, and other interested parties to clean the area, remove the fence, define the cemeteries original borders, and secure access for family members.  We thank the Greater Madison County Community Foundation for a 2018 grant to help with this pursuit.

In 2019, North Branch Cemetery has begun receiving attention – cleaning brush and trees, cleaning gravestones, repairing damage – in conjunction with the Madison Township Trustees, Earlham Boy Scouts, and the Earlham American Legion.

View a list of Madison County’s Pioneer Cemeteries.

Farris cemetery restoration in progress, Winterset MadisonianWednesday, July 11, 2018

Face lift for Farris: Pioneer Cemetery, Winterset MadisonianWednesday, February 21, 2018 11:45 pm

Winterset City Park Nomination to NRPH

Several structures within the Winterset City Park are in need of extensive and expensive repairs.  The Preservation Commission can assist in raising these funds by nominating the Park to the National Register of Historic Places which opens up opportunities to apply for grants to repair the park structures. The Bennett cabin, Clark Tower, and the 3 stone bridges have already been assessed by a professional historical architect and the 5 reports are in hand. We hope the nomination, currently under development, will be accepted by the National Park Service in 2020.  That will lead to applying for subsequent grants to begin address the structural issues. These grants often have a portion that we must match with money and volunteer hours – both great ways for the general public to be involved. 

County-wide Building Survey

The State Historic Preservation Office has suggested that we update the 1976 Madison County Architectural Survey to capture at-risk buildings and identify buildings that would now be considered historic (over 50 years old). This survey covers the entire county – 576 square miles – and over 3,300 entities.  This is being done on a township-by-township basis from within a car, traveling every road in the county, taking pictures, and updated a spreadsheet.  Webster was completed in the spring of 2019 and once the leaves are off the trees, Ohio and South townships will be addressed.

Assistance to like-minded groups in other communities

We are continually looking for opportunities to interact with interested individuals, groups, or officials throughout Madison County to see how we can assist them with their historic preservation goals. To help accomplish this goal, we periodically hold our monthly meetings in other Madison County towns and all interested citizens are invited.

Future Projects

Nominations to National Park Service’s “Network to Freedom”

Background work is underway on the 20+ Underground Railroad-related individuals buried in the Winterset Cemetery.

We partnered with Arlington NE High School teacher Barry Jurgensen to host several student teams in April 2017.  While here, they researched another location within Winterset and the Bear Creek Friends neighborhood north of Earlham. You can see his work here.

Underground Railroad research since August 2015 has uncovered 90 names of participating Madison County individuals. Locating their homes/farms at that time has illuminated the actual trails used, which may be the topic of another nomination to the Network to Freedom.

Visit the Network to Freedom site.

Past Projects

Winterset Courthouse Historic District

We received designation of the Courthouse Square commercial area as a National Historic District by the National Park Service on December 22, 2015. Volunteer effort, given over the last four years, along with the professional skills of Tallgrass Archeology, created a 78-building nomination that secured this designation.  Building owners were given the opportunity to purchase a brass plaque to affix to their building to celebrate tits designation to the National Register of Historic Places.  To see more of their journey, visit Courthouse Historic District.

Bringing Local History to the Winterset Schools

Once again in the fall of 2019, the Commission partnered with Winterset’s 7th grade social studies teacher, Jim Heithoff, to assist the students in discovering their own local history. This year’s topic was the values of Historic Preservation and how it can contribute to the projects taking place in our community. For more information on this program, visit Engaging Students.

Preserve Iowa Summit 2015

Titled “The Power of Preservation”, the statewide annual conference for professionals and volunteers involved in historic preservation in Iowa was held on June 25th – 27th, 2015, in Winterset, Iowa.  For detailed information on the speakers and session materials, visit 2015 Preserve Iowa Summit.

A Gravestone for Charlie Moore

During the summer of 2016, the Madison County Historic Preservation Commission had a successful fund-raising campaign to provide a gravestone for Freedom Seeker Charlie Moore in the Winterset Cemetery. Moore made his way through Madison County on the Underground Railroad and later returned to Winterset to live the last 50 years of his life. Follow this link to learn more about Charlie and to see A Gravestone for Charlie Moore.

Walk Forever Free

During June, 2016, Arlington NE high school history teacher, Barry Jurgensen, walked across Iowa and Illinois on the approximate route taken by two teenage slave girls in 1858 as they escaped to freedom.  Madison County hosted Barry and three of his student from June 8-10.  They walked not only to raise awareness of the Underground Railroad, but also successfully raised over $25,000 to support the fight against modern day slavery, known as human trafficking. To see more of their journey, visit Walk Forever Free.

Jurgensen Bridge

In August, 2014 FEMA asked the Madison County Historic Preservation Commission to discuss possible mitigation solution for the historic Jurgensen Bridge.  The solution selected will move the 60,400 pound bridge from its current location southeast of Patterson to the Cedar Lake Recreational Trail as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge.  Read more of the plan at Jurgensen Bridge/Cedar Lake Recreational Trail Project.