History / Heritage
Port of Burlington Welcome Center
400 N Front St, Burlington
Open October – April Wednesday – Sunday 10 AM – 4 PM
Open May – September Daily 10 AM – 4 PM
Dedicated in 1928 as the Burlington Municipal Docks, the building enabled barges to be loaded with coal by means of an overhead conveyor. The Port of Burlington is now home to a State of Iowa Welcome Center. Information on statewide attractions, souvenirs, and a video of local attractions combine with historic displays to make this an ideal starting point for visitors. Bike rentals are also available (April – October) to provide an alternate form of transportation for a day of exploration.
400 N 6th St, Burlington
6th St between Columbia & Washington Sts, Burlington
Test your driving, walking or bicycling skills on what Ripley's Believe It or Not calls the "Crookedest Street in the World." Perhaps Burlington's most famous landmark, Snake Alley consists of five half-curves, two quarter-curves and drops 58 feet over a distance of 275 feet. The street is reminiscent of vineyard paths in France and Germany.
The Heritage Center Museum
501 N 4th St, Burlington
Open Tuesday - Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM, Sunday 1 - 4 PM
Amazing architectural features, including breathtaking stained glass and ornate woodwork, set the stage for the incredible exhibits. Step back in time in the Grand Gallery with displays of fascinating local geography, the territorial settlement, and exciting changing exhibits. A Woodland diorama and railroad experience are located in the 19th Century Gallery. The Military Gallery honors men and women of Des Moines County who have served their country, while the 20th Century Gallery recalls more recent social and economic history through changing exhibits. Keep children entertained for hours learning about pioneer life in Catfish Corners children’s area. Relive the glamour and enjoy the talents of local musicians in the Bart Howard Room, where a wide range of the composer’s memorabilia is on display and live cabaret performances are regularly scheduled.
Garrett-Phelps House Museum
2900 S Main St, Burlington
Open May - October Saturday - Sunday 1- 4 PM; other times by appointment
Located at the top of Snake Alley, this elegant Victorian home was built in 1851 with an expansion doubling its size in 1870. The three floors on display feature the original furnishings and belongings of the Garrett and Phelps Families. An incredible textile collection is used to provide further insight into the Victorian Era culture in Burlington. Don’t miss Medical Memories, a “museum within a museum” located on the top floor. This exhibit honors the years the home to Burlington’s first Protestant hospital and the former nursing school that operated in Burlington.
Hawkeye Log Cabin, Crapo Park
2900 S Main St, Burlington
Open May - October Saturday - Sunday 1:30 - 4:30 PM
This cabin is located in Crapo Park on the bluff where Lt. Zebulon Pike raised the first American flag on what would become Iowa soil. This unique museum tells the rich history of the Hawkeye Natives Club, who used the cabin as a meeting space, and recalls early settlement with pioneer furniture and tools.
Burlington Public Library
210 Court St, Burlington
The library boasts a single story, completely accessible public area. Once inside, you will find a comfortable setting to read a book, search the web, enjoy a snack, or just gaze out the window at a great river view. In addition to books, the library offers DVDs, audio books, music CDs, and magazines as well as downloadable books and magazines. The children’s area features a fanciful story time room, and teens have their own space with seating and collections just for them. The local history and genealogy room features a strong collection of local and regional material. Each year hundreds of people come from around the country to research local and family history. Computers are offered for patron use, or a wireless network is available for anyone wishing to bring their laptop or mobile device. A copier and fax machine is also open for public use. Footnotes, a used book shop, and Stories Café are located in the lobby of the library. A giant outdoor chess and checkers board adds to the fun of visiting the Burlington Public Library.
Third Street between Washington and Columbia Streets
Burlington was the first capital of the Iowa Territory from 1838 – 1840, and the second capital of the Wisconsin Territory prior to that, 1837–1838. Although the building no longer exists, a historical marker can be found at its site.
National Historic Districts
Heritage Hill National Historic District
Located between High and Washington Sts and North 10th and North 3rd St, Burlington
The fashionable residential neighborhood of Heritage Hill, named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, lines the northern sector of downtown Burlington. Convenient access to commercial and cultural activities made the Hill socially desirable during the status-conscious period of 1870 – 1900. In its earlier years, Heritage Hill had a high concentration of German families, as evidenced by the close proximity of three German-speaking churches. Nearly 160 structures reflect many architectural periods and styles, including Late Victorian, Greek and Gothic Revivals, Italian Villa, Queen Anne and Georgian.
Downtown Burlington Commercial National Historic District
Located from the riverfront to the 800 block of Jefferson St and between Columbia and Market Sts, Burlington
Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, this comprehensive district consists of 108 key buildings that span more than a century of Burlington’s commercial development. From the core of the original city near the riverfront and stretching west along Jefferson, the principal business street, these buildings represent Burlington’s rise and prominence as a commercial center from the 1860s through the 1960s and beyond. Shaped by the topography of the Hawkeye Creek valley between the bluffs, the historic downtown is punctuated by a unique “steeplescape” that compares with European river cities. You’ll find a wealth of architectural gems, from Italianate to High Victorian to Art Deco, unmatched by any city its size. In recent years, many have been carefully restored, and additional restoration and redevelopment continues. Self-guided audio tours are available at the Port of Burlington Welcome Center, 400 North Front St.
Manufacturing and Wholesale National Historic District
Stretching from Valley to Elm St between Main and Fifth St, Burlington
Named to the National Register in 2012, the distinctive large brick buildings of the “warehouse district” date to the late 19th and early 20th century. They were built by the companies that made Burlington a major hub of manufacturing and wholesaling for products such as furniture, saddles and leather goods, linseed oil, groceries, drugs, chocolate, and candy. Today this unique area is beginning to be revitalized with new residential spaces going into these historic buildings.