was considered one
of Indianas finest architects
of historic Costigan House
(May 2008) In 1837, a young, relatively unknown
architect arrived in Madison, Ind., from Baltimore. When he left Madison
15 years later, he had left an indelible mark on the city that remains
by Konnie McCollum
install period carpet
throughout the main rooms
of the Francis Costigan
Architect Francis Costigan was responsible for the design
of several historic properties in Madison, including the Lanier Mansion
State Historic Site and the Historic Madison Inc.s Charles Shrewsbury
House. His architectural brilliance heavily influenced other area designers
during his time. He was also responsible for designing many public buildings
in Indianapolis, the city he relocated to after he left Madison.
An extensive remodeling of Costigans residence at 408 W. Third
St. is being undertaken by property owner, Historic Madison Inc. Executive
Director John Stacier said the project was made possible through a substantial
Our goal is to reopen the house to the public during the annual
Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes, he said. People
that have seen the house before will be amazed and pleased with all
of the work that has been done in it.
Heidi Valco, program director at Historic Madison Inc., said the remodeling
project included repainting of trim and adding period reproductions
of wallpaper and carpet. Some of the existing furnishings were refurbished,
and other period pieces have been purchased at auctions around the country.
Stacier said the wallpaper was an expensive part of the remodeling because
it was handprinted in the same manner that wallpaper during that era
would have been done. The wool carpet was also specially made for the
Costigan, whom experts claim is perhaps one of the finest architects
in Indiana, was born in 1810 in Washington, D.C.. He opened his own
carpentry business in Baltimore in 1835.
Many speculate he decided to move west and settle in Madison because
of the economic hardship his native area was experiencing during that
time. Whatever the reason, he arrived in Madison in 1837, a time when
the town was growing prosperous.
In Madison, Costigan quickly earned a reputation as being a master architect.
At his own residence on Third Street, he solved a difficult architectural
problem of fitting a stately and elegant home on a narrow lot that is
only 22 feet wide. The house shows Costigans characteristically
fine woodwork, including both curved and sliding doors and an interesting
stepladder staircase with a push gate at the top.
He designed a few other residential buildings in Madison, including
the duplex that neighbors his own home. Costigan lived in the home with
his wife, Elizabeth, and three children, Francis, Sarah and Theodore.
Costigan took over the project of designing St. Michaels
Church, which was started prior to his arrival. That project was completed
Around 1843, Costigan designed the home of industrialist James F.D.
Lanier. Because of his work in both the banking and railroad industries,
Lanier became one of the most influential figures in Indiana history
during the first half of the 18th century.
Today, the mansion, one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture
in the country, is a highlight of Madisons historic architecture.
The home, an Indiana State Historic Site, is also listed on the National
Historic Landmarks register.
During the 1840s, he also designed the Shrewsbury home for the salt-barge
riverboat captain, flour manufacturer and pork merchant. Shrewsbury
was also the mayor of Madison.
The Shrewsbury home, also known as the Shrewsbury-Windle House, was
added to the National Historic Register in 1994. It is a majestic home
built in 1848 in the Greek Revival style.
The house, now a historic house museum, has 12 rooms, 13 fireplaces
and a 53-step staircase. The staircase, which many say is the best architectural
aspect of the house, is both freestanding and self-supporting.
Costigan also designed the Madison Hotel, which opened in 1850 at Second
and Mulberry streets. It was described in historical documents as at
that time being second only to the famous House of Cincinnati in size,
finish and convenience. Unfortunately, that building was razed
In an oversight, Costigan was accidentally left off of the guest list
for the opening ball of the Madison Hotel.
Stacier said many other buildings in and around the Madison area have
been attributed to Costigan, but have yet to be authenticated. He
had many men working for him, and they may have copied his work.
In 1851, Costigan moved to Indianapolis. There, he was the supervising
architect on the Institute for the Blind. He later assumed the same
responsibilities for the citys Hospital for the Deaf and Dumb
and the Hospital for the Insane. He also designed the Odd Fellows Building
and several other residences in the Indianapolis. All of those buildings
have been razed.
In 1858, Costigan designed, built and operated a four-story stucco-ornamented
Oriental Hotel on the northeast corner of Illinois and Chesapeake Streets
in Indianapolis. Its name was later changed to the Mason House and then
the Oxford Hotel. In 1928, that building was torn down.
On April 18, 1865, Costigan died of tuberculosis. His death was little
noticed, largely in part because it was a mere two days after the assassination
of President Abraham Lincoln.
While the Costigan family was at one time refined and quite wealthy,
that was not the case in their later years. Costigans daughter
died a short time after him. The son also died of tuberculosis. In 1884,
Elizabeth Costigan became ill while taking care of her son, and she
died in the same bed as her helpless child.
The family had been reduced to near poverty and would have suffered
had old friends not stepped in to help.
For more information about touring the
Francis Costigan House Museum, call Historic Madison Inc. at (812) 265-2967.
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