Jordan House

2001 Fuller Rd, West Des Moines, IA

Photo  by Goddesshanna / CC BY


The Jordan House, a stately Victorian home of Italianate Gothic design, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. It is one of the oldest structures in Polk Country and the oldest in West Des Moines. Built by one of West Des Moines’ first settlers, James C. Jordan, the house today serves both as a museum for West Des Moines and as the office of West Des Moines Historical Society. The sixteen period rooms serve as a fitting backdrop of displaying the many antique treasures gathered from the rich heritage of West Des Moines. Visitors will also be interested in both the Underground Railroad Exhibit and the many artifacts from the regular railroad which played an important role in the early years of West Des Moines.

History of the Jordan House

James C. Jordan, a cattle farmer from Virginia and one of Iowa’s most influential early settlers built the Jordan House. When Jordan settled the area, he chose a beautiful location with ancient oak, walnut and hickory trees on land gently sloping to the Raccoon River. Jordan’s first shelter was a lean-to tent, which was replaced in 1848 with a log cabin. In 1850 he and his wife, Melinda, began work on the first phase of the Jordan House. The family, which at that time numbered six children, lived for a time in the basement of the structure, consisting of a small kitchen and a bed/sitting room. About a year later what turned out to be the first phase of the upper white frame two-story structure was completed, featuring a magnificent entrance, a center hall and two large rooms. A walnut staircase led to the upstairs and two spacious bedrooms. The kitchen remained in the basement.

An Underground Railroad Station and subsequent expansion

During the antebellum period, the Jordan House was a designated stopover on the Underground Railroad. Freedom seeking slaves hid in the fields, barns and outbuildings on the property. Jordan, a staunch abolitionist, was regarded as the “chief conductor” for Polk County. Radical abolitionist John Brown stayed at least twice at Jordan House, once when he was leading a group of 12 slaves to freedom. The house also served as a haven for weary travelers on their westward journey. Jordan’s southern hospitality was apparent, as “Uncle Jimmy Jordan’s” house became known as a comfortable gathering place for local politicians and business leaders. After the death of his first wife, Jordan married Cynthia Adams and their and their family grew to eleven children. In 1870, the house was expanded again with the addition of another parlor, dining room, library and kitchen. Porches were built on both the east and south sides of the house. A second entrance was also added with a black walnut staircase leading to six more bedrooms upstairs.

Jordan House Guided Tours

Winter Hours

Effective September 9, 2016 through June 1, 2017Fridays and Sundays11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon 
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.Closed Christmas Day, during the month of January and Easter Sunday

Tour Fees 
$3 Students  –  $5 Adults 

Groups of 6 or more must call for reservations


West Des Moines Historical Society

Updated May 28, 2017

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