Fort Madison

In 1808 the US built its first fort in the upper Mississippi to establish control over the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase territories. The original temporary fort and trading post was called Fort Belle View but between 1809 and 1810 a permanent garrison was built and this was called Fort Madison after the fourth US president, James Madison. During the War of 1812, local Sauk  Indian leader Black Hawk joined the British side and participated in several Indian sieges of Fort Madison which in November 1813 resulted in the abandonment of the fort. The US army burned the fort as they retreated. The US government bought the land on which Fort Madison stands as part of the 1832 Black Hawk Purchase. Settlers arriving from 1833 built their houses around the ruins of the fort, and they named the town after the old fort. It grew into a town that is now home to around 11,000 people. Proposals to build a reconstruction of Old Fort Madison go back as far as 1936, but it was not until 1986 that sufficient funds were secured. The full sized replica was built in Riverview Park rather than on the original site which is now in downtown Fort Madison.




Shops in G Street

Downtown Fort Madison has plenty of small shops and restaurants, many of which are housed in well maintained late-19th century buildings. The best buildings are found in the Downtown Commercial Historic District on Avenue G from 6th to 9th Streets, and Avenue H from 7th to 9th streets. The building with the turret in this picture of G Street is one of the best known buildings, the Lee County Savings Bank.

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Old Santa Fe Depot

The first rail service arrived in Fort Madison in the 1850s bringing with it an influx of immigrants, many of German origin. The arrival in 1887 of the Sante Fe railroad and its associated bridge across the River kicked off major growth, taking Fort Madison from a population of 5,000 in 1885 to 9,000 in 1900. The Santa Fe Depot site is still used as a station by Amtrak but the Old Depot on the left of the picture normally houses a museum. Floods in 2008 forced the temporary relocation of the museum and when we visited in 2010 plans were in hand to raise the Old Depot to reduce the risk of flooding before the museum could return. There is another relic of the Santa Fe railroad to be found near the entrance of  Riverview Park. Santa Fe steam locomotive no 2913 worked for 11 years on the mainline of the Santa Fe Railway between Fort Madison and Los Angeles, California.  Click Tab 2 to see Santa Fe steam locomotive No 2913.


- Old Fort Madison - it is a replica but it looks very authentic.
- Some nice old buildings in the historic district
- Nothing to report
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Old Fort Madison & Mississippi River from Riverview Park

Much of the replica of Old Fort Madison was made by volunteer inmates of the nearby Iowa State Penitentiary. They learned the construction techniques that would have been used in the early 1800s and built the structures at the prison. The structures were then dismantled and re-erected in Riverview Park, about 530 metres (1/3 mile) from the site of the original fort. Until 1965 some stones from the blockhouses were still to be found on the original site of the fort. These were recovered and have been incorporated into the replica blockhouses and some still show burn marks from the abandonment of the fort in 1813. The replica fort is open Tuesday to Sunday from May to September. Unfortunately we arrived in October when it is only open at weekends. Fortunately the stockade is far from camera proof, so we were able to photograph scenes inside the stockade.   Click Tab 2 to see inside the stockade.




Fox Theater (closed), G Street

The Strand Theater opened as a cinema in 1929 and during the 1930s it became part of the Fox chain. It was renamed the Fox Theater after major renovations were completed in 1951. It closed in 1955 and since then has opened and closed several times. When we visited in October 2010 it had closed 5 months earlier due to the owners retiring. A search on the internet suggests that it may have reopened in May 2013, but other sites suggest that it is still closed.

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Iowa MinimapIllinoisMissouriKansasNebraskaSouth DakotaMinnesotaWisconsin
Old Fort Madison & Mississippi River from Riverview Park, Fort Madison, IA, USA
Shops in G Street, Fort Madison, IA, USA
Old Santa Fe Depot, Fort Madison, IA, USA
Fox Theater, G Street, Fort Madison, IA, USA
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