A New Direction
Historic Madison Inc.
to sell some of its properties
Changes will allow more focus on
Shrewsbury-Windle House, officials say
(July 2013) – Since 1960, Historic Madison Inc. has worked toward a brighter future by preserving the past. Founders John and Ann Windle recognized the potential economic and cultural rewards that could come from protecting and restoring the historic buildings of Madison’s downtown area. Their foresight helped to encourage a respect for history that continues to reap benefits today. Encouraging people to “Come for a visit... Stay for a lifetime!”
HMI’s work impacts tourists and residents by helping to downtown to maintain not only its historical beauty, but its historical vitality as well.
File photo by Don Ward
Historic Madison Inc. plans to move its office closer to the Shrewsbury-Windle House (above) on First Street and sell some of its 17 properties.
Today, HMI continues to look to the future by keeping one eye on the past. A recent year long intensive self-study of the non-profit historical preservation organization has lead to the decision to make some of the group’s properties available for sale and to re-locate the office headquarters.
Stacier reflects on the organization saying, “HMI is critical to Madison.” To explain the impact of the group’s work, he quotes this year’s Reindollar Award Winners Gary Valen and Betty Lyman: “‘It was because of HMI’s work to save the town’s remarkable collection of historic buildings that we discovered Fairmount House. As we drove thousands of miles through many states searching for the right place to resettle, we were saddened to see that most main streets were neglected remnants of their once proud past. If it had not been for HMI’s strong and steady guidance to preserve and restore Madison’s 133-block historic district, we would have driven through town and never looked back. Instead, we immediately recognized that something different was happening here, so we stopped to explore. What we discovered was a vibrant city that embraced and celebrated its history. When we began our adventure in 2009, we thought we were searching for the right house, but our impromptu drive through Madison helped us find something much better, the right community.
HMI President and Executive Director John Stacier explains that, “The study resulted in a strategic plan indicating that the sale of a select number of properties would benefit the organization by reducing maintenance and upkeep costs, while providing resources needed for the planned restoration of the Shrewsbury-Windle House, our signature Landmark property.”
The 16 volunteer members of HMI’s board of directors will be making the decisions on which of the 17 properties currently owned will be retained and which will be available for sale. Stacier reflects on what he sees as ideal buyers for the sites that do go up for sale saying, “Those whose interests in the future of Madison’s historic architecture align closely with those of HMI.”
Stacier says that once restorations are complete on the Shrewsbury-Windle House, plans to relocate HMI headquarters closer to the house will move forward. The move will make a new chapter in the group’s history, he says.
“The HMI offices have been in the basement of the Windle Auditorium (on West Street) since at least the mid-1970s when our first paid executive director was hired,” says Stacier. While a new site has not yet been selected, “It was thought an office location closer to the Shrewsbury-Windle House makes sense since that is our signature property.”
The Shrewsbury-Windle House has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark since 1994. Stacier highlights the fact that there are only about 1,500 sites in the United States that have been awarded this designation. This puts the property in an elite list alongside the White House and the Empire State building. The Greek Revival house was competed in 1849 by architect Francis Costigan, also noted for his work on the Lanier Mansion on the Madison riverfront. The property also has a personal connection to HMI, since it was home to the Windles, both of whom are deceased.
“What we are hoping to do is begin this summer with some of the need exterior work,” says Stacier. In addition to the roof, stonework, and brickwork requiring attention, exterior painting is also on the list of items to address.
“Special stone and brick was used in the construction and we need to find the right materials, says Stacier, “We need to find the proper craftsmen.”
Once exterior work has been finished, attention will then move to the interior of the house. “The interior is even more complicated. There is so much to do in terms of heating, air conditioning and plumbing,” he said.
Stacier stresses that it is vital that such work be done in a way that does not damage or compromise the historical integrity of the home. One particularly exciting challenge that faces restoration artists working on the property is the fact that the drawing room boasts an original coat of paint. Very few sites in the United States still have that sort of finish work still on display.
HMI members are eager to partner with people with a passion for history and for Madison. “We have all sorts of volunteer opportunities available,” says Stacier.
Each of HMI’s museum properties are staffed with volunteer docents who provide a brief background on the properties. Stacier is already looking ahead to when the Shrewsbury-Windle House will be open for more regular hours after restoration work is competed and points out that the showpiece home will require knowledgeable helpers to welcome visitors.
HMI also offers free architecture walking tours downtown from June through September. These tours, which meet at 10 a.m. at the Broadway Fountain, currently take place on the third Saturday of the month. “If we had more volunteers we could offer more tours,” Staicer said.
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