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A New Look

HMI’s 1851 Francis Costigan
House front door restored

The new wood finish takes it back to original look

Courtesy of HMI Inc

(December 2010) – One of Indiana’s most important historic buildings has a new look, one rooted in its storied history. The front door of the 1851 Francis Costigan House, 408 W. Third St., in Madison, Ind., has been restored to its original appearance. This is not any front door – it is a rare sliding pocket door with a faux wood finish, the only one known in the Midwest.

Costigan House door white Costigan House door wood grain

Photos courtesy of HMI

The historic Costigan House front door is
pictured before (white) and after (wood grain). 

At 10 feet tall, this is an imposing all wood, six-panel door. Research shows the door originally sported oak wood graining. Owners of the home in the late 1800s changed it considerably. They cut two feet off the top of the door, installed a large decorative cut glass pane, removing much of the original decorative wood moulding and panels and painted over the wood graining. Historic Madison Inc. restored the door to its original look as part of a major rehabilitation of this important architectural landmark and museum.
Costigan was Indiana’s premiere pre-Civil War architect. He is well known for his designs of the Lanier Mansion and the Shrewsbury-Windle House, both in Madison. Architectural historians have praised Costigan for the space-saving design of his former mid-19th century home on Third Street. The pocket front door is one of these amazing features.
Local craftsman Roger Welch discovered the original design of the door while disassembling it prior to restoration. He carefully replicated new pieces to match missing parts. “A small remnant of wood graining was discovered under a fragment of original decorative trim.” said John Staicer, president and executive director of Historic Madison Inc. “A lab specializing in paint analysis proved faux oak grain was how Costigan finished the door, not the white paint we were used to.”
David Cart of Deputy, Ind., recreated the oak grain finish.
Neighbors and passersby have already noticed the change. Graining exterior doors was once common practice. The look dates back to the 18th century in America, according to Matthew Mosca who analyzed the paint in his Maryland lab.
The door rolls on wheels and a track. The original bronze wheels were worn out from years of service, so another local craftsman made new replica wheels which are hidden in the bottom of the door. The original track was serviceable and remains in place.
The Costigan House rehabilitation was begun in 2007. The project included the installation of new custom made wallpapers – replicas of styles known to have been popular in the mid-19th century – carpets and rugs, some handmade and others created on 19th century looms using historic patterns. Appropriate window treatments and textiles along with period replica light fixtures and antique furnishings were also installed. The project is funded by a grant from an anonymous charitable foundation.
Costigan House is the Historic Madison Inc. property open as part of the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes. The tour, which includes a number of museums and private historic homes in the town’s National Historic Landmark District, takes place Dec. 3-4.

• For tickets and more information about the tour, contact the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956 or visit www.nightsbeforechristmas.com.

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