Iron Works creates
sturdy art for clients throughout the region
(August 2006) Robert Frost wrote good
fences make good neighbors. If true, then Doug Helton could be
considered a good neighbor.
Helton owns and operates Madison Iron Works, located at
1108 W. Main St., in downtown Madison. It is there he fashions all sorts
of iron creations.
Helton didnt intend to go into the iron fence business, though.
It all started when he was just being a good son.
Heltons father purchased a home downtown on Third Street. When
they ran out of fence for it, Helton offered to make some for his dad
out of the small welding shop in his garage. When he finished his dads
fence, one of the neighbors wanted one. One thing led to another, and
soon a new business was born.
Helton learned a great deal through his work as a tool maker for Clifty
Engineering, where he was employed for eight years. After working long
hours at a couple of other places, he decided he was just working too
My kids were growing up, and I was missing it, said Helton.
So he decided to start his own business. He worked for the first eight
years in his garage. As he got busier, he outgrew the garage and had
to find a new place.
by Michele Turner
foreman Bob Ada displays one of
Madison Iron Works popular products,
wrought-iron fencing (below).
In 1999, he bought the building on West Main Street and
worked to renovate the building to suit his purposes. The new location
opened for business the following year. Helton now has four employees,
and they are getting busier every day.
Right now, were working about 12 weeks out, said Helton.
They do work in a 60-mile radius from Madison, including Lawrenceburg,
Seymour, Columbus, New Albany and Vevay.
One of our biggest customers is Belterra Casino; theyve
been really good to us, Helton said.
Other examples of their work include the fence at the Jewish Cemetery
on Wilson Avenue in Madison and the one around the restored caboose
at the Madison Railroad Station Museum on First Street.
Madison Iron Works custom builds projects and then installs them. In
addition to wrought-iron fences, they make driveway gates, hand rails,
cast iron posts and cemetery arches. They also repair and rebuild old
fence. Theyve done work on old homes, but more of their work lately
has been with new construction. Were doing a lot of work
on interiors, mostly making stair rails, said Helton. Whatever
the job, we want it to look like it matches their home.
One of Heltons favorite jobs was repairing and rebuilding a fence
for a private cemetery in Austin, Ind. He was hired by Janet Payne,
who has family members buried in the cemetery.
One of her ancestors purchased the fence at an auction
in 1926. The fence had originally been around the courthouse in Scottsburg,
Ind. Over the years the fence had fallen into disrepair and needed a
great deal of work.
Doug and his people were really good to work with. They treated
us with such respect in our desire to restore the fence. They took it
to heart also, said Payne.
Both Payne and Helton were impressed by the generosity of others to
fund the effort. The Paynes were paying for a lot of it themselves
and then other people would come to visit the cemetery and see us working
and they started making donations, said Helton.
Payne said she has people comment to her frequently on how nice it looks.
I just cant say enough how happy I am with Doug and Madison
Iron Works, she said.
Helton and his crew work with cast iron and raw steel. The casting is
molten metal poured into a mold. Decorative castings are ordered from
a foundry in Alabama. The price of steel fluctuates greatly.
They used to give me a price for steel that was good for 30 days,
now its down to just two days.
Helton still gives his customers a quote for 30 days. Sometimes that
means he loses money, but he feels that is part of running a good business.
That business happens through word of mouth from past customers who
appreciate his work. He says he and his staff work hard to satisfy their
We want the customer as happy as we are when we leave, said
For more information, contact Madison Iron
Works at (812) 265-6861.
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