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Historical significance

Madison moves one step closer
to National Landmark District status

Staff Report

(May 2005) – The effort to designate a portion of Madison as a National Historic Landmark District moved another step closer to reality in April when a committee of the National Park Service Advisory Board approved the Madison National Historic Landmark District nomination in Washington, D.C., by a unanimous vote.
The committee is made up of historians from across the country and had been considering the nomination among several others submitted.

J.C. Barnett Library

John Staicer

William J. Murtagh, one of the committee members, and the first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places has been to Madison and gave the city a glowing report. “Madison is one of those special places you never forget,” Murtagh said.
The National Park Service Advisory Board will review the Madison National Historic Landmark District nomination at a meeting later this year. If approved, the Advisory Board will send the nomination to the Secretary of the Interior for signing to make the designation official.
The overwhelming number of letters in support of Madison’s nomination proved a factor in the committtee’s decision, said John Stacier, executive director of Historic Madison Inc., and a member of the team presenting the nomination. More than 700 hundred letters of support were received from property owners, citizens, organizations, historians and elected officials, he said. “This overwhelming display of public support is deeply gratifying and helped carry the day,” Staicer said.
Susan Escherich, a historian for the National Park Service, presented an overview of Madison aided by digital photos and brief video clips from the 1943 movie “The Town,” filmed in Madison by the U.S. government and shown throughout the world. The movie and current photos were shown side-by-side to illustrate the extent to which Madisonians have preserved and restored our amazing stock of historic architecture.
Camille Fife, president of the Westerly Group that wrote the nomination on behalf of the community, discussed her support for the nomination as a property owner. The Westerly Group created the digital images, including the film clips from “The Town” for the presentation.
Historic Madison Inc. undertook the nomination in 2001 through a unique public-private partnership supported by grants from the Jefferson County Commissioners, though its Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, and the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Office.
National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction, and only 36 are in Indiana. Three National Historic Landmarks in Jefferson County are the Shrewsberry-Windle House and the J.F.D. Lanier State Historic Site, both in Madison, and the Eleutherian College in nearby Lancaster.
There are only two National Historic Landmark Districts in the State of Indiana – the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza in Indianapolis and New Harmony Historic District in New Harmony. The Madison Landmark District, if approved, would be the largest in the nation, including more than 2,000 properties in Madison’s historic downtown area.
National Historic Land-marks designation recognizes properties that are important to the entire nation. Owners of National Historic Landmarks are free to manage their property as they choose, provided no federal license, permit or funding is involved. Owners of National Historic Landmarks may be able to obtain federal historic preservation funding when funds are available. Federal investment tax credits may apply. A bronze plaque bearing the name of the National Historic Landmark and attesting to its national significance is presented to the owner upon request.

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