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Twilight stroll

Cornerstone Society plans home tour
during the Madison Chautauqua

Wolfe's home is among those to be featured

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(September 2007) – Art and history seem to go well together. Ironically, one of the historic homes that will be featured on a new historic home and garden tour offered during the 2007 Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art is owned by a retired professor of art.

Robert Wolfe

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Retired art professor Robert Wolfe
sits in the backyard of his Madison
home, which will be featured on the
Cornerstone Society’s September tour.

The 1830s-built home of University of Miami, Ohio, retired art professor Robert Wolfe Jr. is one of nine homes on the new Twilight Stroll Historic Home and Garden Tour, sponsored by the Cornerstone Society of Madison, Ind. The new tour will be held from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 29-30. It was designed to give tourists to the 2007 Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art a nighttime activity.
“Many tourists visiting Madison during our annual art festival have expressed interest in seeing some of the historic sites in our town,” said Brad Miller, coordinator for Twilight Stroll. “We also know that after visitors leave the Chautauqua, they want something to do at night. So we thought the historic tour would be a wonderful compliment to the festival.”
Tickets for the stroll are $11 for adults in advance until Sept. 15. Children under 12 are free. After Sept. 15, the cost will be $15 for adults. The history of each home has been researched and will be discussed in a mini-lecture by docents during the tour. A strong focus of the tour will be the artwork on display in each of the homes.
Miller stressed that 100 percent of the proceeds from the tour will be put back into the National Historic Landmark District in a variety of ways, including renovation assistance for homeowners and workshops.
Wolfe’s Greek Revival home, located at 905 W. First St., was featured in “99 Historic Homes of Indiana,” a book by Marsh Davis, the president of Historic Landmark Foundation of Indiana. The historic home’s original woodwork, including the floors, door jambs, baseboards and hardwood floors, was painstakingly hand-scraped and restored. The original plaster walls were rehabilitated, and Wolfe painted all of the walls himself.
“I wanted the look of the brush strokes,” he said. Even the stone curbs in the front of the home are original. “The stone curbs were one of the things that originally attracted me to this particular house.”
Much of the furnishings in Wolfe’s home are antiques and artwork he collected from around the world, including oriental furniture boxes and a variety of period pieces. A collection of antique prints adorn the walls throughout the home; Wolfe’s specialty as an art instructor was in print making.
Wolfe moved to Madison 15 years ago after paying several visits to friends in the area. Several of those friends convinced him to buy the historic home, which he described as being in “horrible condition.”
Vines were growing through the single-pain windows into the interior of the house, and there were layers of thick paint on the woodwork. The mortar was missing from between the bricks, and the overall condition of the house was in shambles.
“I basically saved this house from the wrecking ball,” he said. “But I’ve put in 10 years of hard work, and I am well-pleased with how things have turned out.”
In addition to the restoration on the original part of the house, Wolfe hired well-known historic architect, Todd Monzinco, who wrote his dissertation on Madison architecture, to design an addition that would complement the original structure. Monzinco, a former student of Wolfe’s, also oversaw the historic preservation of the house.
“Everything from the 1820s English locks on the doors to the paint colors are in accordance with historic preservation,” said Wolfe. “The architect really worked with the historic district to get things right, and this home is a wonderful example of combining new with the old.”
The home also boasts a beautiful garden in the back, which can only be viewed during daylight hours because it is not lit.
Miller said many of the homes on the tour are clustered for easy walking convenience. “We wanted people to leave the festival and be able to walk straight to the homes,” he said.
Another unique aspect of the new tour is two homes that are “renovation works in progress.” These two homes will offer prospective historic property buyers a chance to see what happens during the mid process in restoration. “Other tours don’t offer this unique chance for visitors to see a house being restored,” said Miller.
Cornerstone Society plans to hold its tour every other year so it won’t interfered with other established tours in Madison.
Tickets will be on sale at all tour sites the day of the event and are available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center or the Madison Main Street Program office on Main Street. Tickets can also be purchased by mail. Make checks payable to Cornerstone Society. The address is P.O. Box 92, Madison, IN 47250.

• For more information, call (812) 273-5479.

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