Present Projects

National Historic District Follow-Up

  • Window Workshop
  • Design Ordinance, City of Winterset
  • Building Plaques – Over half have been ordered and are starting to appear on buildings in the 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. The project tasks listed will complete the effort given over the last four years, take advantage of the enthusiasm generated by the designation, and maintain the district in years to come.

Bringing Local History to the Winterset Schools

Once again this year, the Commission is partnering with Winterset’s 7th grade social studies teacher, Jim Heithoff, to provide local historical context and research skills so that they can uncover their own local history. This year’s topics have been the Babel Proclamation by Iowa’s WWI governor plus the life and POW experience of Don Thomas.  In the previous two years, the topic was the Underground Railroad in Madison County. This helps prepare them for National History Day competition as well as practice with general problem solving skills. For more information on this program, visit Engaging Students.

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 plan to use both scientific (ground-penetrating radar) and unscientific (grave witching) to help us devise a method that can be used to care for other Pioneer Cemeteries.

View a list of Madison County’s Pioneer Cemeteries.

Offer assistance to like-minded groups in other Madison County communities

We are in the process of contacting the officials and interested individuals in other communities 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

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.

Winterset Residential Historic District(s)

Several areas within Winterset hold grand, historic homes and seem to be a good fit to become National Historic Districts. Many of the individuals who built them were key to the development of the Courthouse Square Historic District.  If you own a historic home, we may be able to help you discover its history.  Please contact us for further discussion.

Past Projects

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.