Trolley signs to be
remade into historical markers
signs to go up
in the city before tourism season
(February 2013) An effort is under way to refurbish
and replace 15 Madison Trolley signs throughout the downtown and enhance
them by including brief lessons and photographs of the citys history.
Many of the steel framed signs have been taken down over the years and
others fell into disrepair. Three signs were found lying in the city
by Don Ward
stands in front of
the Comfort Station
on Madisons Main
Street. It is larger
than the other signs
to be erected so it
can be seen by
it has the same
Camille Fife, the citys Preservation Officer, has
led the effort as part of the History Committee of the Milton-Madison
Bridge Mitigation Team. Fife has been working with other committee members
to redesign the signs and eventually have them mounted at key locations
prior to the start of tourism season in May.
Fife led a trolley ride tour of the sign locations Jan. 17 that attracted
a group of about 20 people, many of whom represented the various groups
involved. Ron Grimes, archivist with the Jefferson County Historical
Society Research Library, provided the historical photos and helped
write the copy for the signs, along with Rhonda Deeg of Historic Madison
Inc. and Jan Vetrhus of the Cornerstone Society.
The money to rehabilitate and erect the 15 signs will come from generous
donations provided by Kings Daughters Health and Trilogy
Health Services, plus another $10,000 from the Milton-Madison Bridge
The initiative, which began six months ago, also included the Madison
Riverfront Development Committee, but its president, Jim Pruett, said
his group had not been contacted to participate. He asked that the signs
not be erected until his committee members had reviewed the plans for
each sign and approved of them. Fife said the Riverfront Development
Committee had been invited to the meetings and that she would ensure
that the committee members were also invited to attend future meetings
regarding the signs.
During the trolley tour, Fife emphasized that the narrative to be written
on the signs and the location of the signs had not yet been finalized.
Input was being sought during the tour, and Fife passed around drafts
of the historical narratives to be written on each sign.
The original trolley signs were created years ago to mark actual stops
along the trolley route. But the Madison Trolley had not been driving
that route or making those stops for many years. In fact, in recent
years, the trolley only operated on weekends and for special events
during the summer and fall seasons, according to trolley driver Judy
The signs are owned by the Madison Trolley owners
Dave Adams, Jim Grant and Kathie Petkovic and maintained
by the city of Madison. Fife said the committee wanted to rehabilitate
the existing metal signs as a way of saving money. But they want to
embed the narratives and photos in a fiberglass panel. The panels will
be more longlasting, she said.
With the new design and placement, we are not thinking of these
as just trolley signs anymore but rather as amenities for tourists to
read and experience streetside history, Fife explained. The trolley
would not even be stopping at most of these locations; rather the signs
would simply be historical markers for pedestrians to read tidbits of
history on each one.
It was not easy to stay under 50 words on each sign. We usually
started with 80 or 90 words and had to keep cutting it down, Deeg
Each sign will have historical narratives printed on both sides, with
separate topics on each side. The signs recount the following topics:
Indianas First Railroad; Madisons Boat Builders; Madisons
Iron Foundries; Railroad on the Riverfront; Crystal Beach Pool; the
1937 Flood; Steamboats; Madison Regatta; Gas, Coal and Tobacco; Eagle
Cotton Mill; Milton-Madison Bridge; Madisons Breweries; Madison
Founder John Paul; Madison Early History; Mulberry Street Businesses;
Madison in the Movies; Jefferson County Courthouse; Madisons Commercial
District; Madisons Fire Companies; and Old City Hall and Post
Office; Broadway Fountain; Broadway School; Public Library; Madison
Chautauqua; Lydia Middleton Elementary School; Trolley Barn; Building
Roads; Servicing the Automobile.
One trolley sign that is quite a bit larger than the others is already
posted in front of the Comfort Station on Main Street, and the trolley
actually does stop there. This sign is larger because it was primarily
designed for motorists instead of pedestrians to see. The other signs
will have the same framwork design but are smaller.
Back to February 2013