Place/Event: Jordan House
Location: 2001 Fuller Rd, West Des Moines, IA 50265
Cost: Adults $5, Youth 6-17 $3.
Grade/age range: All ages are welcome.
Group size: Smaller groups make viewing the rooms easier. Staff can accommodate larger groups.
Stroller friendly: Strollers are allowed but stairs make it challenging. Parents can wear a baby in carrier. A picture book is available for those with special needs who cannot climb the stairs.
James Jordan and his family moved to West Des Moines in 1848. He became a prominent Iowa leader and the “chief conductor” of the Underground Railroad in Polk County. A one hour guided tour of his family’s home show cases their humble beginnings with a dirt floor dugout home, their connection with the Underground Railroad, and the story of their family history.
The Underground Railroad
As a kick off to our slavery and civil war study, I was most interested in helping the children learn about the Underground Railroad. In the basement level of the home are informative displays and lots of information. We actually ended up spending half of our time in the lower level with the children asking lots of questions.
On the second level of the home is a room dedicated to quilts and how they communicated messages for the escaping slaves. A key component of the guided tour is Gale Brubaker, executive director of the West Des Moines Historical Society. Gale told the story of the Underground Railroad and the Jordan family in a way that made it exciting and engaging for the children. She has a passion for educating which comes across immediately.
The Jordan House
The Jordan family has a unique story. Once again, Gale brought their story to life. Many similarities are found in the Jordan house that are also in the mansion at the Living History Farms. Seeing the repeated household items is exciting for the kids because they start to piece things together. Several items in the home are original family heirlooms. The salt dishes in the dining room are particularly interesting and something we had not learned about before.
In addition to spotting a few familiar items, Gale introduced us to several things we have never seen in a Victorian home before. A thorough history of several items and how their popularity was influenced by Queen Victoria was well explained with plenty of opportunity for the children to ask questions.
The Bennett School, a one-room school-house, is just down the road to the west of the Jordan House. For an expanded field trip or to accommodate a large group of students, please talk to Gale. There are many different options and guided tours are adjusted to meet the needs of each group.
A fun scavenger hunt helps keep younger students engaged. The West Des Moines Historical Society appreciates the support of the community as they continue to be an educational resource for students and families.