Tour Takes Visitors on Underground Trip in Independence

By Ellen Kurt, KCRG-TV9

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — There is much more than meets the eye in Our Town Independence. The Old Main Street is hiding a secret. When people walk into businesses near the river on First Avenue, they’re actually walking into the original second floor, with an underground city beneath their feet.

“A lot of the people said ‘No, that’s not right. That can’t be.’ But it is! And so we are proving it to people by taking them on tours,” Leanne Harrison, Buchanan County Historical Society President, said.

Those tours happen twice a year, six feet below the sidewalk, at the original front doors to First Street.

In the 1860s, the city fathers said the Wapsipinicon River was flooding the town too often so they raised the street 6 Fort, making the first floor of local shops, a new basement.

“In 2012, there was a new sidewalk program, a lot of the sidewalks were torn out and you could see below. And so when they tore them out, you could see windows, glass, everything still in it and so that’s what you see today,” Harrison said.

Visitors can see this for themselves through scheduled underground tours, taking people back in time in Our Town.

“Fortunately with the underground tours, we have such a rich history in Independence that we keep building upon. I hope in 100 years from now, people are still coming back for tours,” Michelle McBride, Independence Chamber of Commerce Director, said.

The next opportunity to tour underground Independence is August 16. It’s a self-guided tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets will be on sale that day only at the Wapsipinicon Mill. Money raised will support the Buchanan County Historical Society.

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