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Greater Burlington's Hidden gem: Phelps House Museum
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Greater Burlington's Hidden gem: Phelps House Museum

When searching for oysters, one can sometimes find a pearl. Sitting between Snake Alley, the "Crookest Street in the World", and Cobblestone Alley is one of these pearls; the Phelps House Museum.

William Garrett, an early Burlington merchant, constructed this stunning home in 1851. Like many other families, William’s was growing quickly. With nine children, the Garrett family had to expand their home and in 1871. They added a tower and mansard to the east end. Following the death of Mrs. Garrett, the house was repurposed to become the first Burlington Protestant Hospital from 1894-1899. At that time, patient ward rooms cost one dollar a day. The first nursing school was also located at the home. The Phelps family moved into the home when the hospital closed. The house was sold to the Des Moines County Historical Society in 1973 after the death of the last Phelps sister; their brother donated all the contents of the home to the Historical Society.

Presently, the Phelps House Museum offers visitors a peek into the past boasting detailed oriental rugs, inimitable paintings, and accessories from the late 1700 and 1800’s. One of the most distinctive features of this 6 level mansion is Medical Memories which features medical memorabilia. This third floor ballroom highlights the years this home served as the first Presbyterian Hospital. Make sure to view the unique medical instruments, uniforms, and photos during your visit to this one of a kind museum. Summer clothing displays and holiday events in the museum are very popular as well.

If you would like to visit us, our hours of operation are May through October (Saturdays & Sundays only) from 1:30-4:30. We do take appointments during the off season, for information call (319) 753-5880 or e-mail Jim Hunt at

Jim was an educator for 32 years; he has been the museum manager for the last 19 years and resides in Burlington.

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    Travel Iowa Team
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