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Visit the Bridges of Madison County in Iowa's Winterset City Park

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Winterset, Iowa City Park

Winterset, Iowa City Park

Visiting Winterset, Iowa

My mother and I have had several occasions to visit the small town of Winterset, Iowa. We have relatives living in nearby Bettendorf, Iowa. Often while on vacation, we liked seeing things of interest while heading on up to our final destination and also on our return trip home to Houston, Texas.

Since I was driving my car, this was easy to accomplish. I have several reference books at home and often research things of interest when planning a driving trip.

On our first trip to Winterset, my young niece was with us. That time we stopped to see the birthplace of the actor John Wayne and the tiny home in which he and his family lived for a time. On the next occasion, my mother and I spent some time wandering through the gorgeous and historic city park in this charming small town.

Madison County Seat

This small town was first laid out (platted) in the year 1849. This area was pretty much prairie land back then and was perfect for farming.

As of the 2010 census, this town is still small. It has 5,190 people and consists of a mere three and a half square miles of land.

It is the county seat of Madison County. The location was the backdrop for the 1995 movie film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood (based on the 1992 best-selling book by Robert James Waller) The Bridges of Madison County.

Meryl Streep won an Academy Award as best actress for her performance in this romantic and sensual film.

It concerns a wife, whose family has gone to the Iowa State Fair, and a photographer who is in the area filming the historic covered bridges in the area. They find themselves attracted to one another, and for those who may not have seen the film, you can probably surmise the rest.

Covered Bridges

There are six covered bridges in Madison County. They have attracted many more visitors since the movie The Bridges of Madison County came out on film. My mother and I stopped to see three of the six, and one of them was right in the city park of Winterset that drew us to this site.

It is the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge built in the year 1870. This setting is not its original location for this 79 foot (24 meters) structure. It was moved to the City Park in Winterset in 1979 from its location near Bevington, Iowa, where it spanned the North River.

The reason people originally built these covered bridges was to prolong the life of the bridges. Most of the old ones are wooden, and weather conditions impact longevity. By adding roofs and sides to the bridges, it lengthened the durability of the bridges by decades.

Preservationists are interested in saving and maintaining the few remaining covered bridges wherever they are in the country so that people in the future can still see and experience these historic structures.

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A.W. Crawford

There was a plaque dedicated to A.W. Crawford with an image of him in this park, and engraved were the following words:

In memory of A.W. Crawford, whose love of nature and little children and his loyalty to his home people lead him to give $25,000.00 to make this city park possible.
A.D. 1918

That was undoubtedly a lot of money back in 1918! According to public records, A.W. Crawford was born in Cincinnati and came to this part of Iowa in 1856.

His dad was in the grocery business, and he became a junior partner in A. Crawford and Son in 1872. By 1876 he and his brother George F. Crawford assumed running the family business under the name Crawford Brothers.

Plaque dedicated to A.W. Crawford in the city park

Plaque dedicated to A.W. Crawford in the city park

Andrew Bennett

While still a boy, Andrew Bennett moved to Madison County from Marion County in Indiana in 1852 when this part of Iowa had pioneering farmers and others settling in this area.

There is a log cabin that was built by Andrew Bennett in 1852 situated in this park. Several people have worked on its renovations and the restoration of this log cabin, as the attached sign indicates.

Mr. Bennett married in 1860 and had nine children.

According to a report in a Winterset paper dated December 21, 1905, "He was well known throughout the county and was everywhere respected as an upright man, worthy of the esteem he enjoyed." This notation was made after Andrew Bennett died on December 14, 1905, at age 70, after a battle with cancer.

Worth a Visit

The town of Winterset is only about thirty miles southwest of Iowa's capital city of Des Moines. It is a charming little town.

In addition to John Wayne, other notable people have come from this area. They include:

  • The botanist and inventor George Washington Carver
  • Fred Clarke, who is in the baseball Hall of Fame
  • The 33rd Vice-President of the United States, Henry A. Wallace who served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I hope you enjoyed looking at Winterset, Iowa's charming city park with its historic covered bridge and pioneer log cabin half as much as my mother and I did when we visited there many years ago. Stop by and see it, plus more of this town for yourself if you are ever in the area.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

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