Small Town Iowa: Independence is Known for This Unique Attraction
From the quaint main streets and storefronts, to the "flashback in time" town squares, where you might even see the occasional horse and buggy, there's nothing quite like "small town Iowa." All of our small towns have a rich history and have collectively helped make Iowa the great state that it is today.
Kicking off our ongoing series featuring "Small Town Iowa," we'll start with Independence. This town and its residents take great pride in their patriotic-themed name after our nation's fame. They Celebrate Indee every year with a giant celebration and parade (with the exception of 2020 of course). "Indee" is known for many different things, but they have one attraction that you won't find in any other town.
Founded in 1847, the city sits along the beautiful Wapsipinicon River and is home to about 5,900 people. The county seat of Buchanan County is known for its stately 1940 courthouse that is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's also known for the infamous Independence Mental Health Institute (MHI), which has a foreboding deep, dark past. And, of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the ever-popular Independence Motor Speedway.
However, the most unique thing you'll find in Independence is the one-of-a-kind historic train station. The Buchanan County Tourism's visitor center is located in the historic Illinois Central Railroad Depot. Long before stock car racing took over the town, Independence was known for horse racing, when thousands of people would descend upon Rush Park. Of course, they needed a way to get there, and that was traveling by train and arriving and departing from this magnificent depot. This unique piece of history is located along Highway 150 on the north side of town. But it wasn't always located there.
In 1994, the tourism bureau purchased the depot and baggage building for the price of $1. Of course, there was one stipulation. The railroad company wanted the buildings moved. It took two years, but a group of volunteers got the restoration process done. You can see it for yourself in all its glory by taking a trip to visit "Indee." You walk around the grounds and check out the depot and baggage buildings, along with a 1978 vintage caboose and 1923 locomotive anytime, but the Visitor Center is only open from mid-May through mid-October. (keep scrolling for photos)