River towns have always had a certain appeal to me. Their history can be as deep and complex as the water they sit on. So I decided to take a look at Burlington, Iowa, located on the mighty Mississippi.
Like many towns in the Midwest, Burlington is named for somewhere in the eastern United States. (Burlington, Vermont, in this case.) The Iowa Burlington has a background of fur trading, steamboats, railroads, and manufacturing, all of which have left their mark on the city.
River towns often have an iconic bridge that makes it to the postcards. In Burlington, it’s the Great River Bridge. I like the easy-to-remember name.
After crossing the bridge to enter town, we headed up to the Heritage Hill neighborhood and found enormous homes.
They were built by successful river barons and other merchants. There’s a variety of architectural styles to appreciate with these mansions, or you can just group them altogether in my husband’s simplified category of “big-ass houses.” Either way, a walk around this historic district will leave you impressed.
While you’re in the Heritage Hill area, be sure to drive down Snake Alley. It will remind you of Lombard Street in San Francisco. Snake Alley was built in 1898 to connect the hilltop area with the downtown shopping district. Three clever German immigrants came up with the idea to make a winding street down the steep elevation, something they learned in the Old Country. Bricks were laid at a slight angle so horses could get a better footing as they went down the alley. Today it’s one-way from top to bottom so don’t attempt to drive up it.
For lunch or dinner, try Big Muddy’s Bar & Grill on the Mississippi River. It’s located in a former nineteenth-century freight house that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The views while you’re dining are beautiful. Inside, there are two markers on the wall to indicate the level of flood waters in 1993 and 2008. For their efforts at restoration after these disasters, Big Muddy’s received a community award.
Burlington, Iowa: A Great Place to Live, Work and Play . . . . take a look and see for yourself!