A house near the western Iowa town of Lewis, built in 1856 to help slaves fleeing Missouri find their way to Canada and freedom, is now itself in need of help. The home, built by Reverend George Hitchcock, aided fugitive slaves by serving as a safe house on the Underground Railroad. Sandy Fairbairn is spokeswoman for a group working to keep the home in its original condition. For starters, Fairbairn says the windows are at least a hundred years old and need to be replaced. Since the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, Fairbairn says they cannot simply go out and purchase new windows. She says they have to be specially constructed to blend in with the architecture of the period. A local woodworker was hired to build one window using a window from the Nishnabotna Ferry house as an example for the framing style of that era. He’ll do the rest of the windows in the same fashion. A total of 15 windows need to be replaced at a cost of 700-dollars each. Past restoration efforts involved taking up the wood flooring and exposing the original floor and rebuilding the staircase railing using an old photograph as a guide. Because of those efforts and the historical significance of the home, Fairbairn says the Hitchcock House has a chance at attaining even greater status. They recently been recognized as a site on the National Underground Railroad to Freedom and they have been nominated for status as a National Landmark, the highest honor a historic property can receive. There are five steps in attaining National Landmark status and the Hitchcock House in currently in the third step. One of the criteria is how closely a site is kept original. Fairbairn says those who are working on the restoration hope to have enough funds from donations to have all the home’s windows replaced in time for the house’s 150th birthday celebration and festival June 10 and 11 of next year. For information on how to donate, call Fairbairn at (712) 769-2323 or e-mail her at [email protected]
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