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Preserving the Past

Early beginnings remain part
of Historic Madison Inc.'s legend

By Don Ward
Editor


MADISON, Ind. (April 2000) – Where do you begin to tell the story of Historic Madison Inc. and its role as the chief preservationist of Madison's historic architecture?
Do you start with the 14 buildings that together form the historic skeleton of the city's downtown?

Schroeder Saddle Tree Factory

Photo by Don Ward

The Schroeder family factory complex
is a completely intact 19th century
single family manufactory that
made wooden forms for horse saddles
that were sold worldwide.

Do you start with the people who designed, built and dwelled in these stately structures so many years ago?
Or do you start with the late John T. Windle and his widow Ann Windle, who together founded HMI in 1960, thus beginning a tradition in Madison of protecting the very structures that today have placed Madison among America's gems of historically preserved small towns?
All have played significant roles in creating the 750-plus member organization, which this year will celebrate its 40th anniversary. HMI members and supporters will mark the occasion at their annual spring dinner on May 12 at Clifty Inn, said president John E. Galvin, 62, the former owner of the historic Ohio Theatre who has administered the organization since 1981.
This year's speaker will be William A. Cook, who directed and financed the restoration of the West Baden Springs Hotel, built in 1902 in Orange County, Ind.
The not-for-profit organization has come a long way since its inception that consisted of a $100-a-plate luncheon attended by 12 local business and professional men. With this seed money, the newly incorporated organization bought, restored and opened its first house museum in 1962, the Judge Jeremiah Sullivan House at 304 W. Second St. The house, built in 1818, is said by experts to be one of the finest examples of the Federal style of architecture in the old Northwest Territory.
Since those early beginnings, HMI has evolved to include a 16-member board of directors, an advisory council, a full-time paid president (Galvin), a director of the Schroeder Saddletree Factory restoration project (John Staicer), a director of programs (Kim Franklin), an office manager (Kathleen Cooper), part-time secretary, maintenance person, a weaving/crafts guild and an all-volunteer docent association that today boasts 80 members.
The Docent Associates is a group of men and women who work as interpretive guides at those HMI properties that are open to the public each year from April to October, and during December's annual Christmas Tour of Homes weekend.
In February, HMI created the new director of programs position to help expand its educational outreach program to the community and school groups.
"I have a lot of respect for this organization and have served on the board of directors for six years, so I know it well," said Franklin, the former director of the Madison Main Street Program who was hired in February to take the HMI position.
"I see it as being a process to see what the organization is doing now, educationally, and evaluate what is needed to present the story of historic preservation and what it means to the area," she said.
The growth continues
Today, HMI's assets are valued at more than $8 million. The $325,000 annual budget for operations and maintenance is primarily financed from membership dues, individual contributions, admissions from fees charged at four house museums, plus interest earned from an Endowment Trust Fund and other investments.
In addition to managing its historic properties, HMI takes part in other activities.
The organization sells a 230-page, illustrated book on Madison's early architecture that was co-authored by John Windle and Robert M. Taylor Jr. of the Indiana Historical Society. Proceeds from the book sale help fund publication of HMI's literature.
In 1991, HMI established the Community Development Fund Grants Program, which provides $10,000 annually through a grant application process to aid a variety of local individuals, groups or organizations seeking voluntary solutions to commmunity improvement projects.
The Facade Easement Program provides an opportunity for property owners to protect the historical significance of their buildings with the aid of a tax credit. By donating the easement, the owner gives HMI the right to protect the property's exterior facade from changes that conflict with its historical architectural character.
HMI also participated in various community programs related to historic preservation and in 1973 was active in getting the Department of Interior to designate 133 blocks of the city as a federally recognized National Register Historic District.
Galvin managed, then owned, the Ohio Theatre from 1960 to 1994. When commercial development on the Madison hilltop began to take off in the mid-70s, Galvin and other downtown business owners seized on the potential for tourism through historic preservation as a way of survival. With the help of then-Mayor Warren Rucker, the Madison Business and Professional Association joined forces with HMI founder Windle to devise a plan for making Madison "a regional destination for tourists and shoppers," Galvin said.
"So 25 years ago, we hung our hats on that one, and the results speak for themselves," he said. "Now people from all over the country are coming here to retire, work or start businesses. We always had the river and Clifty Falls State Park to draw them in, but I think economic development and preservation go hand-in-hand, and the community has really come to realize that in the last few years."
Another key factor in the city's development as a tourist attraction, Galvin said, was the interest in the city by members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They visited Madison via the Delta Queen steamboat in 1975 and two years later selected it, along with Galesburg, Ill., and Hot Springs, S.D., as pilot sites for the National Main Street Project.
The pilot program lasted from 1978 to 1981, then was revived in 1993 as a not-for-profit organization that has continued to operate under the guidance of a director and 11-member volunteer board. The Main Street Program is dedicated to the ongoing revitalization of the downtown commercial district of Madison.
John Windle served as HMI's president until 1981. He managed the organization for the first 15 years from the Shrewsbury House, a Greek Revival style home designed by Francis Costigan and completed in 1849. The house was originally owned by riverboat entrepreneur Capt. Charles L. Shrewsbury and in 1994 was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
The Windles bought the property, restored it and opened it for public tours in 1949. John Windle died in 1987. Ann Windle still runs an antiques shop inside and provides tours for a donation. Her will stipulates that upon her death, the house will be donated to HMI, Galvin said.
"We consider it the birthplace of HMI," he said.
On-site education
Today, when visitors arrive in Madison to tour the Sullivan House, Dr. Hutchings' Office or the Francis Costigan House, they are greeted at the door by volunteer docents.
"It is really a rewarding experience because of all the interesting people you meet. I've met relatives I didn't even know I had," said Betty Eckert, a retired nurse from Madison who has volunteered as a docent for the last four years. She guides visitors through the Sullivan House for a half day every other week.
"They used to give you some information that you were to read and learn about each house, but now they have people who train you," she said.
Most of the visitors are from out of town, she said. During the summer months, many arrive in Madison by steamboat – the Delta Queen or Mississippi Queen – and are bussed up into town to the historic sites. School groups also arrive by the busload from around southern Indiana.
Richard Conklin, a retired physics professor and former dean at Hanover College, serves as the docents' president this year and also cites visitor interaction as the best reward.
"I've met people from all over the world, some from as far as Australia," said Conklin, who was first recruited 10 years ago by his wife, Barbara, who schedules the docents and needed a substitute.
Conklin said when he works at Dr. Hutchings' Office, he often meets physicians and others who work in the medical field who have come to see how medicine has changed over the years. "Dr. Hutchings closed his office in 1903, so there have been a lot of changes," Conklin said.
He described the Sullivan House as a "very livable atmosphere," and enjoys being there because it feels like he is in someone's home.
In addition to HMI sites, these annual visitors also tour other historic sites in Madison. These include the J.F.D. Lanier State Historic Mansion at 511 W. First St.; the Shrewsbury House at 301 W. First St.; the Masonic Schofield House, a Federal style house owned and restored by the Indiana Masonic Heritage Foundation at 217 W. Second St.; and the Madison Railroad Station and new museum addition at 615 W. First St., owned by the Jefferson County Historical Society.
Interest in Madison history and meeting people may be the main attraction for those who work as docents, but tour guiding isn't their only activity. The other is social. The group holds monthly luncheon meetings, each with a featured speaker. They also hold a spring tea at the 161-year-old St. Michael the Archangel Church, one of HMI's properties on East Third Street.
Near the end of each year, HMI sponsors a day-long bus trip for the docents somewhere in the region. Previous trips have included the new Indiana Historical Society Building in Indianapolis and historical sites in Columbus, Ind. and northern Kentucky.
Ongoing projects keep HMI busy
As with any historic property, there is much maintenance work to be done annually. But in recent years, HMI has taken on even more.
Phase I of the year-long restoration of the Ben Schroeder Saddletree Factory on Milton Street is complete, with two more to go in an attempt to create a unique educational industrial museum that will include the family home and its furnishings, and the blacksmith and woodworking shops presented in their original form.
This factory is among 13 that once operated in Madison, making wooden saddletree frames for customers worldwide, including the U.S. Army. It is considered the longest-running, continually operating 19th century saddletree factory. The business operated until 1972 and in 1975 was donated to HMI. The museum is expected to open in 2001.
Staicer is directing the restoration of the property and will also design educational materials for the on-site guides and interactive learning for school and civic groups, tourists and researchers.
HMI also is remodeling a small house that last summer, though the cooperation of King's Daughters' Hospital, was moved from 615 West St. to a lot adjacent to the Hutchings' Office at 118 W. Third Street to avoid its demolition as part of the hospital expansion.
Once remodeled, the house will be used to display many of the Hutchings' family household items, such as clothing, furniture, photos and children's toys. These items have never been shown to the public but instead placed in storage.
"We know the Hutchings family lived next door to the doctor's office and he had his practice in the smaller building," Galvin said. "We felt it was not appropriate to display the family's household items in the doctor's office."
Hutchings, a mid-19th century horse-and-buggy doctor, and his wife had one daughter who practiced photography. HMI has many of her early 20th century glass negatives in its collection and plans to have them printed for display in the house, Galvin said.
Also ongoing is HMI's removal of old tennis courts behind the Brown Gym that adjoins the back of the Shrewsbury House property. This land, acquired from the Madison Consolidated Schools Corp., will be restored this summer to its original condition as a garden, since the Shrewbury estate once extended all the way down to the Ohio River.
Galvin said the new garden will be done "as soon as possible" but did not say when that will be.
"Our philosophy has always been, don't get in a hurry with historic restoration, because if you do, you're going to mess it all up," Galvin said. "Research takes time, and we sometimes don't have the craftsmen and architects here in Madison to do a lot of this kind of restoration work.
"We're the keepers of these historic properties, and what we don't get done, the next generation will finish to preserve the past for future generations."

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