The downtown courthouse square district contains 83 buildings and has been officially designated as a Historic District. The center of the square is anchored by the impressive Madison County Courthouse rebuilt in 1876 of native limestone with interior woodwork of locally milled oak and walnut.
This building houses the Blue Note of Bridges of Madison County fame.
We also notices the many old and beautiful homes.
But, on to the main subject of this post......The Bridges of Madison County. The 1992 novel of the same name by Robert James Walter set Madison County on the map. The story of the love affair between photographer Robert Kincaid, who travels to Madison County to photograph the covered bridges, and the Italian-American housewife Francesca Johnson was made into a motion picture in 1995. It was filmed in Madison County and starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.
Madison County is the Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa with the largest group of covered bridges that exists in one area in the western half of the Mississippi Valley. Six of the original nineteen covered bridges of Madison County remain with five of the six listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We set out to see five of the six bridges.
The bridges were covered to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were much more expensive to replace than the lumber used on the bridges' sides and roofs. The bridges were named after the family that lived closest to them at the time of construction or for a nearby geographic feature.
There is a water trail to see the bridges but we went by road after picking up a map.
The first bridge we saw was the Roseman Covered Bridge built in 1883 which was featured in the movie. It is the most popular of the six remaining bridges. It is 107 ft long and was renovated in 1992 at a cost of $152,515.
The second bridge on our tour was the Hogback Covered Bridge built in 1884 and renovated in 1922 for $118,810.
The third bridge was saw was the Cedar Bridge built in 1883 and it was a sad sight. It was featured on the cover of the novel and was the only bridge that you could still drive across......that is until three teenagers set it on fire.
There was a nice little county park by this bridge.
Our next bridge was the Holliwell Covered Bridge built in 1880. It is the longest of the remaining six bridges spanning 122 feet. It was renovated in 1995 for the cost of $225,000.
I think this couple was trying to recreate a scene in the movie.
The Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge was built in 1870. This bridge was originally located on the North River near Bevington but was moved to Winterset's city park in 1970.
The only bridge of the remaining six that we didn't see was the Imes Covered Bridge. It is the oldest of the bridges built in 1870 and was moved from its original location over the Middle RIvr west of Patterson to Canton Creek in 1877 and then finally to St. Charles in 1977.
The 48th Annual Madison County Covered Bridge Festival is set for Oct 14-15, 2017.
Since we were already at the Winterset City Park to see the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, we toured the park and saw this original log cabin built in 1852.
Since we still had daylight left, we drove some more and found the Madison County Historical Society. While it was definitely after hours since the museum closes at 4:00PM, we were still able to enjoy a drive around the 18 acres and see the 14 restored buildings.
The crown jewel of the complex is the 1856 Bevington-Kaser House constructed by C.D. "Doc" Bevington. It has been restored and returned to Victorian richness.
The Limestone Barn was open but we didn't get out because it was well guarded by a number of very large roosters and hens who were roaming freely around the area.
The Law Office
The Skelly Station
The Elmer McKee Agriculture Building built in 1991 houses tools, machinery, and farm related items.
The Tusha Schoolhouse
The Zion Church
We stayed overnight at the Winterset City Park Campground. City and county campgrounds are a real find because they are usually nice as well as inexpensive. There were 34 sites all with 50/30/15 amp electric and most sites also had water and sewer hookups for $20. We chose two pull-through sites with water and electric. There are also tent sites for $14. Self-registration is located at the front of the park and there is a camphost on site. You probably won't need reservations during the week but they are advised on weekends by calling 515-462-3258. It is a city office so call during normal office hours. The park is open 1 April - 15 November (water is shut off on 1 Nov).
It is a very nice little park.
We finished the day off with leftover steak from dinner up in Forest City.