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Levi (1798-1877) and Catharine (1803-1881) Coffin were Quaker abolitionist leaders that played a significant role in the Underground Railroad in Indiana. From the 1820s through 1847, the couple harbored several thousand freedom seeking black men, women, and children in Indiana as they escaped the bonds of southern slavery for the relative freedom of the north. The Coffin’s home in Fountain City (then known as Newport) became known as the Grand Central Station in the Underground Railroad. The Coffins later moved to Cincinnati and continued their work until the end of the Civil War.
The Levi Coffin House is a national historic landmark and was built in 1839 in a federal architectural style and has been one of the most visited historic sites in the state of Indiana. Operated by Indiana State Museum and the Historic Sites Corporation, the house and the new $3.8 million interpretative center allows for visitors to understand the role the Coffins played in context of the national abolitionist Underground Railroad operation, or what Levi Coffin referred to as the Mysterious Road.
The Indiana State Museum hosted a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, December 8 for a crowd of about one hundred people. Tom King, president and CEO of the ISMHS and Robin Winston, ISMHS board member and chair of the Levi Coffin State Historic Site Campaign both spoke about the importance of the new center to assist the public in better understanding the national significance of the site.
The interpretative center opens to the public on December 10, 2016 and debuts a new exhibition titled Souls Seeking Safety: Bringing Indiana’s Underground Railroad Experience to Life. The three-story facility sits adjacent to the Coffin’s House on U.S. 27 and features a theatre, meeting facilities, and exhibition space. The center and house are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. Admission to the center is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for children ages 3 through 17.