The original Fort Madison was an active military outpost from 1808 to 1813. This fort was one of three posts established by the U.S. Army to maintain control over the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. First named Fort Bellevue, the name was changed to Fort Madison, in honor of the 4th President of the United States, James Madison.
Early settlers coming to homestead, built their homes near the ruins of this original fort. The community is home to the Iowa Territorial Prison, circa 1839 making the city home to both the oldest & newest prisons west of the Mississippi River. Travelers along the Great River Road, following the river from its source in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, can view this massive edifice and marvel at the old quarried stone walls and learn about the history of Crime & Punishment in the heartland.
The ties to Iowa’s Department of Corrections and Sheaffer Pens has earned Fort Madison the title of “Pen City’. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief stops in Fort Madison before crossing the Mississippi, making its way from Los Angeles to Chicago on the world’s longest swing-span double-decked bridge. The only remaining example of this type of structure on the Mississippi River. It opens its gates to barges and riverboats moving commerce and passengers along the major waterway. From the Santa Fe Depot Museum, to the Fort Madison Area Art Association and multiple historic districts and venues, this quaint town offers a unique travel experience that is packed with festivals and venues to celebrate the heartland of the United States. Come experience this place where Iowa began.