phase is complete on
historic Saddle Tree Factory
MADISON, Ind. (March 2000) The first phase of the $970,000 restoration
of the Ben Schroeder Saddle Tree Factory is complete, and project manager
John Staicer has begun the arduous task of returning the dozens of original
artifacts to their original places inside the blacksmith shop.
by John Staicer
Saddle Tree Factory before renovation.
This is the exciting part for me, and if the weather
improves, I can be out here a lot more, Staicer said. Its
pretty much a one-man job.
The artifacts had been labeled and their places marked along the walls
and benches. The artifacts were then stored in a warehouse. Staicer
shot nearly 200 rolls of slide film of the site prior to restoration
to use as a record of the interiors original condition. He will
use the slides to reinstall tools, patterns and other artifacts in their
Work will now begin on the second phase, restoring the woodworking shop
next door. The final phase will be restoring the Schroeder house.
German immigrant John Benedict Ben Schroeder founded the
factory, located at 106 Milton St. in downtown Madison. It operated
from 1878 to 1972, employing a handful of people who made the interior
wooden frames for horse saddles.
After Schroeders death in 1909, and the arrival of the automobile
in the early 1900s, the family expanded its operation to include production
of stirrups, hames (curved supports for horse draft collars), clothespins,
work gloves and lawn furniture.
The Schroeders business was among 13 saddle tree factories that
operated in Madison, supplying saddle frames for clients as far away
as South America and the U.S. Army. Schroeders was the nations
longest-running, continually operating 19th century saddle tree factory.
by John Staicer
Saddle Tree Factory after renovation.
Four of Ben and Elizabeth Schroeders eight children
continued to run the business after their parents death. They
all lived in the house and never married. The last surviving family
member, Joseph Schroeder, lived in the house until his death in 1972.
The Schroeder Foundation in 1975 donated the site to Historic Madison
Inc. with the intention of restoring the factory and opening it as an
interactive museum. The museum is expected to open sometime in 2001
and will entertain school and civic groups and other visitors interested
in learning about this unique aspect of Madisons industrial past.
Staicer, 39, a Valley Stream, N.Y., native who holds an advanced degree
in museum management, was hired in 1991 to direct the project and will
stay on to supervise programming for the new facility, which will likely
be open from April to October each year.
About 80 percent of the money to restore the factory came from the state
of Indiana. The rest was provided by private sources, including the
Lilly Endowment, Ogle, Horn and Cinergy foundations.
The ambitious restoration project required stripping away the floor
and walls to shore up the buildings foundation and support structures.
Much of original flooring was replaced, but some of the wall boards
had to be reconstructed. The knob-and-tube lighting, with its hanging
bulbs, however, was retained.
One of the things we wanted to do was retain the integrity of
the property and make it a museum-quality restoration, Staicer
said. That meant retaining as much of the original fabric as possible.
To learn more about the project, call Staicer at (812) 265-3426
or visit the Saddle Tree Museum website at: http://www.imh.org/imh/saddle/home.html.
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