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New historical markers
nearly ready to go up around Madison

The metal signs will tell lessons
of history at various locations

(August 2013) – Madison, Ind., residents will soon see new historic markers going up around the city in August as part of a project to refurbish 14 Madison Trolley signs. Tim Harmon of Timbers Custom Signs in Hanover, Ind., has been working on the signs and said he hopes to begin placing them in early August.
A 15th sign now standing in front of the Madison Comfort Station on Main Street was not changed and is part of the refurbished collection.

Tim Harmon

Photo by Patti Watson

Tim Harmon of Timbers Custom Signs in Hanover, Ind., is working on 14 new historical markers that he hopes to install around Madison in August. Some of the signs also will serve as Madison Trolley stops.

“I am waiting for some final parts to come in this week to finish the signs and then I hope to start putting them back up sometime next week,” Harmon said July 24.
The new signs do more than simply mark some of the stops along the trolley route. They have been enhanced with photos and narratives to tell history lessons about various landmarks and locations around town.
The trolley doesn’t actually stop at all the signs, said Camille Fife, the city’s Preservation Officer. She led the effort with Cornerstone Society’s Jan Vetrhus as part of the History Committee of the Milton-Madison Bridge Mitigation Team. The project was initiated because many of the original steel framed signs had been taken down over the years and others had fallen into disrepair. Three signs were found lying in the city garage.
Fife and Vetrhus teamed with Ron Grimes, archivist with the Jefferson County Histor-ical Society Research Libra-ry, and Rhonda Deeg of Historic Madison Inc., to research the history and design the signs. Others were also involved in the project, which began last year.
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 in town.

Tim Harmon

Photo by Patti Watson

Tim Harmon works on one of
the historical markers at his
shop in Hanover, Ind.

The money to rehabilitate and erect the signs came from generous donations provided by King’s Daughters’ Health and Trilogy Health Services, plus another $10,000 from the Milton-Madison Bridge Mitigation Fund.
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 Duncan.
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 said.
Each sign will have historical narratives printed on both sides, with separate topics on each side. The signs recount the following topics: Indiana’s First Railroad; Madison’s Boat Builders; Madison’s 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; Madison’s Breweries; Madison Founder John Paul; Madison Early History; Mulberry Street Businesses; Madison in the Movies; Jefferson County Courthouse; Madison’s Commercial District; Madison’s 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.
The trolley sign now standing at the Comfort Station is much larger than the others, and the trolley actually does stop there. This sign is larger because it was primarily designed for motorists instead of pedestrians to see, Fife said. The other signs have the same framework design but are smaller.

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