experts come together
to renovate historic firehouse
Walnut Street home is for sale
Lela Jane Bradshaw
When Bruce Anderson first purchased the historic Walnut
Street firehouse in downtown Madison, Ind., not everyone shared his
enthusiasm to renovate the neglected property.
Everybody said I was crazy, and after I got into it, I thought
so, too, he said, laughing.
However, some of those very friends who initially wondered at the wisdom
of Andersons adventure soon found themselves pitching in to help
lay ash wood floors or blow in insulation. During the 2 1/2 years Anderson
spent transforming the broken down firehouse, he found himself studying
with artisans to learn a range of new skills and working with experts
to make his vision a reality. Anderson had wanted to go through the
process of bringing a historic home back to life and notes that it was
quite an experience I would never trade it!
Anderson worked for two
and a half years to transform this
neglected historic firehouse into a home.
Andersons original plan with the property was to
retire and move there himself, but during the course of the renovations,
he realized that he just couldnt bring himself to leave his Hanover
home in the county. So he decided to put the two-bedroom, two-bath property
up for sale in hopes of finding someone who would appreciate and care
for the building as he does. He envisions the ideal buyers as either
a small family or a bachelor, like me.
Over the course of the renovations, Anderson worked with Historic Madison
Inc. in deciding what changes to make to the building and what what
elements of the past to preserve. During the renovations Anderson assembled
a notebook of photographs and records chronicling not only his own work
on the property but also pieces of the buildings past. Town records
report that on St. Patricks Day of 1873 the Walnut Street Fire
Co. No. 4 was founded by a group of Madison residents of predominantly
Germanic ancestry. Many of these volunteer firefighters worked in the
slaughterhouses in the area and wore wooden shoes to protect their feet.
Frequently, they would show up to fires in their distinctive footwear
and so earned the nickname of the Wooden Shoes of Walnut Street.
The building remained a fire house until 1962 at which point it became
the Republican Headquarters.
This history provided the inspiration and also the necessity for some
of the renovations. The bright red roof and detailed lettering hark
back to days of the volunteer fire company, with colors reminiscent
of a traditional fire engine. One of the walls to the building required
attention as it had born the brunt of the fire trucks hastily leaving
and banging up against the door frame. And when Anderson decided to
put in a large deck off the second floor living quarters to answer the
problem of what to do if the firehouse ever caught on fire, the foundations
of the former water tank became the supports to the modern, spacious
Of all the hard work that went into turning the neglected site into
a charming home, Anderson is most pleased with the exterior, remarking
that the outside is just so beautiful. He cites the cast
iron detailing and painted accents as particular points of pride. An
entire day was devoted to getting the lettering on the front of the
building exactly right, and he also reports that a great deal of thought
and consideration went into the decision on what colors to use outside.
While Anderson was very hands on throughout the process, he also relied
on friends and experts to make his dream a reality. In particular, he
credits the architect Don Ball for his assistance. Anderson also studied
with Jack Patchin to learn proper techniques for working on the old
windows in the firehouse, many of which were preserved.
Amish workers put on the standing seam roof which, with no holes or
screws, cant leak. And while his friends may have
given Anderson some good natured teasing at the start of his project,
they too proved valuable helpers.
A lot of friends came down to help me. It was a lot of fun,
he says with a smile. Notably, Tom Mathews was down here every
weekend, just helping me all the time.
Looking over the original brick preserved in the walls, Anderson reflects
that they built buildings back in those days to stay forever.
Now thanks to his renovations, the Walnut Street fire house should indeed
stand for many years to come.
For more information, contact Bruce Anderson
at (812) 801-1956.
Back to December 2010