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Lanier Carriage House

Lanier Mansion project nearly finished

Building will house historical items when finished

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (July 2004) –An ongoing project to reconstruct a carriage house and summer kitchen at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site recently received a nudge in the right direction. The private, anonymous donor foundation that originally gave $250,000 to the project has offered additional funding of up to $125,000 on a one-to-one matching basis. The funding is needed to complete as planned the interior of the structure and to produce exhibits and programming.

Lanier Mansion carriage house

Photo by Don Ward

The newly erected carriage house
sits next to the Lanier Mansion
in downtown Madison.

Construction of the exterior of the carriage house began early this year and was mostly completed by mid-May. The building now stands over the remains of the original carriage house and summer kitchen, which have been carefully excavated, analyzed and preserved over the past 13 years. Leading much of the excavation project has been Bill Wepler, curator of Historical Archaeology of the Indiana State Museum.
The excavated site includes part of a brick foundation and evidence of two conjoined rooms, a summer kitchen and carriage house, which were believed to have been constructed in the 1830s to serve James Lanier’s original dwelling. The original Lanier home was built between 1825 and 1831 and, according to newspaper advertisements offering for sale scrap materials from the home, was demolished around 1865. Available evidence suggests that the group of buildings which included the summer kitchen and carriage house remained for several years after the original house was demolished. It is thought that they were torn down around 1900.
Minimal graphic documentation, including a few maps and lithographs, as well as clues from the original foundation regarding the placement of doors and latrine pits were used to piece together what is believed to be an accurate interpretation of how the exterior of the carriage house originally looked. “Our intent was to make it as accurate as we could possibly make it,” said historic site manager Link Ludington. “We were able to piece together what the original building would have looked like even though we don’t have actual photographs showing what it looked like before it was torn down.”

Link Ludington

Photo by Don Ward

Link Ludington of Lanier Mansion Historic Site.

The interior of the structure will not be a replica of the original but will instead include the archeological dig site and an interpretive center with exhibits including artifacts found during excavation of the site. These include various pieces of kitchen-related items including glass and ceramic containers and animal remains.
Educational programming will center around interpretation of archaeological features of the site and the insight they provide into life there in the 1800s. Excavated areas open for viewing will include the privy, kitchen area and a profile showing site stratigraphy spanning the period from before the buildings were constructed to the paving of the modern asphalt driveway.
After all is said and done, the total cost of the project will be in the neighborhood of a half million dollars. The private foundation offering the addition $125,000 has given until November for matching funds to be raised. “If we’re successful in raising the amount of money we need to do the interior and install exhibits, develop programming and have program staff in place, the state will cover the utility costs and security system once it’s open,” said Ludington, who will work with the Lanier Mansion Association and Indiana State Museum personnel to raise the funds. The money would allow the building to be opened to the public as early as next spring.

Anyone interested in learning more about the project or contributing to its completion can contact Ludington at (812) 265-3526.

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