FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind. (AP) — Residents of an eastern Indiana town hope the community will get a boost from construction of a planned visitor center at an 19th century's abolitionist's home that was a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves.
State officials have lined up about $1.9 million in federal grants toward a $3.2 million plan to upgrade the Levi Coffin House state historic site in Fountain City. That plan centers on turning a neighboring house, believed to be nearly two centuries old, into a visitor center with exhibit space and an auditorium.
Coffin's family is credited with helping hide hundreds of escaped slaves while living in the house from 1839 to 1847.
Robin Winston, chairman of the state museum's Coffin House capital campaign, said the site was an important piece of the state's history.
"Quite frankly, I went over there and stood on the grounds and really was moved by the fact that so many people who were seeking freedom, who must have been scared to death, had moved through there," Winston, a former state Democratic Party chairman, told The Indianapolis Star. "I decided I wanted to be a part of this."
The planned Levi Coffin Interpretive Center is part of strategy to reinvigorate the 800-person town about 60 miles east of Indianapolis near the Indiana-Ohio state line.
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