Preserving History: The Jordan House in West Des Moines, IA

Nestled in West Des Moines, Iowa, the Jordan House stands as a historical landmark that offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s rich past. Built in the mid-19th century, this stately home serves as a reminder of Iowa’s role in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, making it an important cultural and educational resource for the community. More can be found here.

Historical Significance:

The Jordan House holds significant historical importance as a key site associated with the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by enslaved African Americans to escape to freedom in the northern states and Canada. As a prominent abolitionist, Dr. James C. Jordan, the original owner of the house, played a vital role in aiding fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom, making the Jordan House a symbol of courage, compassion, and resistance against slavery. Learn more about Crossroads Park: A Premier Recreational Destination in West Des Moines, IA.

Architectural Features:

The Jordan House is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture, characterized by its symmetrical façade, tall columns, and classic proportions. The two-story brick home features a central entrance portico with fluted columns, decorative moldings, and a pedimented roof, reflecting the elegance and refinement of the antebellum era. The interior of the house is equally impressive, with period furnishings, original woodwork, and architectural details that transport visitors back in time to the mid-19th century.

Museum and Educational Center:

Today, the Jordan House serves as a museum and educational center dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement in Iowa. Visitors to the museum can explore exhibits, artifacts, and archival materials that document the lives and experiences of Dr. James C. Jordan, his family, and the enslaved individuals who sought refuge at the house. Guided tours led by knowledgeable docents provide insights into the house’s history and significance, offering visitors a deeper understanding of Iowa’s role in the fight for freedom and equality.

Community Outreach and Programming:

The Jordan House is actively involved in community outreach and educational programming, offering a variety of events, workshops, and activities for visitors of all ages. From lectures and panel discussions to living history demonstrations and hands-on workshops, the museum provides engaging opportunities for learning, reflection, and dialogue about the legacy of slavery, racial justice, and social change. Special events such as Juneteenth celebrations, Black History Month programs, and historical reenactments further promote awareness and appreciation of African American history and culture.

Preservation Efforts:

Preserving the Jordan House and its historical significance requires ongoing maintenance, restoration, and stewardship efforts. The Jordan House Historical Society, in partnership with local preservation organizations and community stakeholders, works tirelessly to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the house and its grounds. Fundraising initiatives, grant funding, and volunteer support enable the society to undertake restoration projects, interpretive enhancements, and educational initiatives that safeguard the house’s legacy for future generations.


The Jordan House in West Des Moines, Iowa, stands as a testament to the courage, resilience, and compassion of those who fought against slavery and injustice. As a museum and educational center, the Jordan House preserves the memory of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement, inspiring visitors to reflect on the past and work towards a more just and equitable future. Through its exhibits, programs, and community outreach efforts, the Jordan House continues to serve as a beacon of hope and a catalyst for positive social change in the community.

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