Richmond Off The Beaten Path

  • Some of the really old Buildings in Centerville
    Some of the really old Buildings in...
    by deecat
  • Barn at Levi Coffin site
    Barn at Levi Coffin site
    by deecat
  • Secret Spring Water Well in Cellar
    Secret Spring Water Well in Cellar
    by deecat

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Richmond

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    Secrets of Underground Railroad

    by deecat Updated May 21, 2006

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    Levi and Catharine Coffin
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    We all know that life for a runaway slave was full of "hazards". They could only travel a few miles at night, using the North Star to guide them. They often hid in homes or on the property of antislavery supporters, such as Levi Coffin's.

    First Photo:
    Portraits of Levi Coffin and his wife, Catharine Coffin

    Because 2,000 slaves over a 20-year-period were helped to reach safety by the Coffins, their home became known as Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad

    Second Photo:
    Concealed hiding spot under the eaves off the maid's room in the Coffin House. A small panel door gave access for fugitives hidden behind it in the crawl space under the roof. A low bed was used to screen this door.

    Third Photo:
    Secret Spring well in the cellar so that none of the fugitives had to go out to theoutside well. Also, with the secret spring well, large amounts of water needed for all the escaped slaves would not cause speculation.

    Fourth Photo:
    In the barn is a wagon that has a secret compartment where escaped slaves were hidden for travel from one safe haven to the next.

    One of the 2,000 slaves who hid in the Coffin home was "Eliza," whose story is told in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

    Abolitionists, such as the Coffins, referred to fugitives as "baggage" and the men transporting them as "conductors."

    It was so exciting to see this historic site where history was made.

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    Renovation of Levi Coffin Site

    by deecat Updated May 20, 2006

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    Jill on bench with
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    We were very fortunate to be able to see the Levi Coffin historic site on our visit to Indiana because it was closed. However, by chance, in a restaurant in Centerville, we met some people who knew volunteers who worked at this site. They called these volunteers, asking if they would open the house for a private tour for us. In shock, we discovered the volunteers agreed to drive to Fountain City, open up the house, & give us the tour!

    (From Jill Martin)

    In 1967, the state of Indiana purchased The Coffin house from the estate of Nola Rupe Brittain. The Wayne County Historical Society undertook the restoration of the house and open it to the public in 1969.

    Volunteers conduct tours, showing the home to thousands of school children, and opening it to the public during the summer.

    The next project of the Levi Coffin House Association is a Visitors Center.

    Photo #1
    Jill seated on a special bench with a board that flips up so women who used the bench could place their baby beside them, and the baby could not roll off. The board can then be flipped down for adults.

    Photo #2
    The kitchen and the fireplace for cooking. In this room, there is a small gift case where visitors can purchase merchandise.

    Photo #3
    Levi Coffin study. His portrait hangs above the desk.

    Photo #4
    A double: the top photo is a bed with a quilt and a "trundle bed" beneath it. Bottom is the rest of bedroom, closet, wash basin, fireplace, and woman's dress and bonnet.

    Photo#5
    a close-up of corner hutch in dining room with pieces of dish sets, some original.

    The tour guides were excellent explaining everything in detail.

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    Grand Central Station of Underground Railroads

    by deecat Updated May 20, 2006

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    Levi Coffin Information
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    Photo #1: Indiana Freedom Trail Description of Levi Coffin Home in Fountain City, Indiana. Plaque Reads: "Levi Coffin (1798-1877), a Quaker abolitionist, lived in Newport (now Fountain City) with his family 1826-1847. Moved from North Carolina because he & his wife, Catharine, opposed slavery. Advocated, and sold in his store, free-labor products not produced by slaves. House built circa 1839; designated a National Historic Landmark 1966.
    Coffin's Reminiscences (1876) (journals) documented work in Underground Railroad & antislavery movement.
    The Underground Railroad refers to a widespread network of diverse people in the nineteenth century who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S."

    Photo #2: Levi Coffin State Historic Site. (113 U.S. 27 N, Fountain City) This is the Coffin family home, an 8-room Federal style brick home in Fountain City, Indiana, that became a "safe haven" for escaped slaves on their journey to Canada.

    Photo#3: The Barn behind the house.

    (From Jill Martin)
    Many of Wayne County's Quaker settlers traveled from North Carolina to a state free from the horrors of slavery. Abolitionists, Levi Coffin & his wife, Catharine, were North Carolina Quakers who came to Fountain City (then called Newport) in 1826 as part of the Quaker Migration.

    Levi was owner of a mercantile store, selling only goods made by free, not slave labor. He built a brick house ADAPTED to hiding escaped slaves. There was a hiding place under the eaves of the maid's room, and an underground spring formed a hidden water source in the cellar; thus, they did not have to walk to the outside well.

    With the help of his like-minded neighbors, Levi aided TWO THOUSAND escaped slaves find freedom. His house was known as the "Grand Central Station" of the Underground Railroad.

    Levi and Catherine continued their abolitionist work after moving to Cincinnati in 1847. However, only this Fountain City house survives as evidence of Coffin's work..

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    Historic, Friendly Centerville, Indiana

    by deecat Updated May 19, 2006

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    Some of the really old Buildings in Centerville
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    Before we arrived at Richmond, Indiana, we stopped for lunch at historic Centerville, Indiana, (which is located six miles west of Richmond). So many of this town's structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of those are the adorable brick rowhouses that stand near the historic National Road (Route 40). These rowhouses are connected by "a daisy chain of brick archways, extremely rare architecture that's unique to this Indiana town".

    Centerville is part of the towns on the "Antique Alley" which is a stretch of towns on the National Road from Richmond to Knightstown that has many antique stores (more than 1,400!)
    We were told that little Centerville has 510 dealers!

    Centerville also has charming inns and unique speciality shops. This small town was an important stop along the National Road in the 19th century. They say that in its prime, Centerville saw 200 wagons per day pass through the town. Truthfully, it still looks as though it exists in the 19th century.

    Besides eating lunch in Centerville, we strolled the streets and went into several stores. My mouth was hanging open as I marveled at the architecture, especially the rowhouses and arches. Many people refer to Centerville as "Arch Town".

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Richmond Off The Beaten Path

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