Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes

Madison holiday home tour
features all Main Street sites

Lamson-Albers house offer glimpse of Greek Revival

(November 2015) – It is rare that all six private homes on the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes are located on Main Street, says Marci Jones, who has coordinated this popular event for the past 12 years. This will be handy for visitors to the Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 4-5 event, she said. Five of the six private homes are compactly located on West Main Street.
The sole exception is the Lamson-Albers home at 411 E. Main St. It is a Greek Revival Home with Italianate features, located only one-half mile east of the Boyd Home on the west end. In the past six months, the 14-room house has been completely renovated by new owners Aaron Lamson and Chris Albers. While the home is new to the Christmas tour, its owners are tour veterans.

Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes

• Dates: Nov. 27-28; Dec. 4-5 in Madison, Ind.
• Tour Times: 5-9 p.m. Fridays; 3-9 p.m. Saturdays
• Tickets: $12.50 pre-sale through Nov. 13; then $15 after for adults. Children ages 5-15 are $5. Available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St., Madison
• Organizing Sponsor: VisitMadison Inc.
• Information and Tickets: (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956. www.NightsBeforeChristmas.com

Private Homes:
• John Boyd House, 507 W. Main St. (owners Matt & Joy Barron)
• Garber-Courtney House, 733 W. Main St (owners Bob and Tammy Courtney)
• Lamson-Albers House, 411 E. Main St. (owners Aaron Lamson and Chris Albers)
• Long House, 946 W. Main St. (owner Frankie Long)
• Patton House, 944 W. Main St. (owners Jeff and Linda Patton)
• Schroeder House, 750 W. Main St. (owners Tony and Annie Schroeder)

Public Sites:
• The Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, 511 W. First St.
• Schofield House, 217 W. Second St.
• Jefferson County History Center, 615 W. First St.
• Schroeder Saddletree Factory, 106 Milton St.
• Madison Presbyterian Church, 202 Broadway

Hospitality Sites:

• Seifert & Short Folk Art & Doll Museum, 113 E. Third St., Madison
• The Little Golden Fox, 602 W. Main St.
• Galena Garlic, 402 Broadway

The Great Cookie Caper will be held at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center from 4-8 p.m. Fridays and 2-8 p.m. Saturdays (while supplies last).

• A Children’s Gingerbread House Workshop will be held from 10 a.m. - noon, and from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Jefferson County History Center, 615 W. First St. Gingerbread Houses will be on display during the home tour. Fee $7 each. Reserve at (812) 265-2335.

• An Adult Gingerbread Workshop will be held from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Jefferson County History Center. Enjoy a creative night including sips and nibbles. Fee $45 per person plus $7 per house. Reserve at (812) 265-2335.

“The house was built 41 years after the death of George Washington,” says Albers, who likes to search for facts that will “grab readers.” Built about 1840 by Archibald Cosby, it has been repainted a sage green with six colors that highlight architectural details. Noting that the house originally was built in the Greek Revival style, Italianate features, such as the front decorative leaded glass entry door and the elegant two-story bay extension, were added about 1886, Albers said.
Today, it is an elegant home, decorated with antiques, Madison memorabilia and art by Madison artists. “Ninety percent of the art in the house is by Madison artists,” Albers said.
Asked who are his favorite local artists, Albers replies, “Eric Phagan is a favorite. Bob Sauressig, Teresa Waller.”
Just inside the front door is one of Albers’ favorite pieces, a 600-pound bust of Julia Agrippina, 15-59 A.D. She was a prominent woman in the Julio Claudian dynasty and mother of Nero. Friends found the lovely bust of her somewhere in Europe. That is just one of many such stories of intriguing objects in the Lamson-Albers’ home.
A solid cherry wooden railing leads upstairs to one of the bedrooms, where a collection of glass hangs over a fireplace. In placement and design, it is reminiscent of Dale Chihuly, the famous glass artist. The tin ceiling in the kitchen and wainscoting in the dining room both came from St. Michael’s schools. Everything in a small patio room is from Albers’ collection of Madison-related memorabilia.
The former patio was enclosed in 1985. Albers’ favorite piece in that room is an original blueprint from the Pearl Packing Co. of a railroad car to ship products. There is a sign for the old North Madison Service Station, among other signs for Rogers Drug Store, Lamson’s Feed Store and others. Yes, Aaron Lamson is a relative to the Lamson family that ran the former feed store at the corner of Mulberry and Second streets.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

The Lamson-Albers home in downtown Madison, Ind., features unique architecture, especially in the eaves of the roof.

Albers, a designer, is no stranger to the Christmas Tour. “This is my second time,” he said. Also, he has decorated the homes of people whose homes are on the tour. “I’m a nut for Christmas,” he said. “The day after Halloween, I’ll start decorating. Out with all the fall decorations... then, we’ll have five Christmas trees, and floral arrangements.” His voice drifted off, perhaps into his Christmas plans or other thoughts.
Albers is “no stranger” to home renovation. Since 2002, he has been fixing up and selling houses, including historic homes. He had a weekend house in Madison that was on the Christmas tour, but he still worked in Cincinnati. After buying this house in March, he moved to Madison full-time and started on his biggest project to date.
“This is it,” he said. “This is a big house. I’m A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) and driven, and it has to be right.”
In the midst of renovation, Albers and Lamson stopped long enough to get married on Aug. 21, which was Lamson’s birthday. Albers’ son, Zak, and Smedley, a handsome 4-year-old Old English Bulldog, share the home with them.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

From left, Aaron Lamson and Chris Albers pose in front of their Madison, Ind., home, which is on this year’s tour.

Sometime before 1886, the owners extended the front of the house with the addition of the two-story bay area, according to Christmas Tour information. It included the elegant floor to ceiling windows. The bay would have replaced the two original windows located on both the first and second floors. The window above the entry represents the only surviving shorter window size of the Greek Revival Period. The decorative Italianate cornice with Gothic arch details probably was added at that time of the bay addition.
Tour coordinator Jones said she anticipates a large crowd for the annual event. “The number of attendees fluctuates year to year, especially depending on the weather, but I buy 3,500 tickets (to sell),” she said.
Other homes that are new to house tours include: The John Boyd Home, 507 W. Main St., owned by Matt and Dr. Joy Barron; the Patton Home, 944 W. Main St., owned by Jeff and Linda Patton, and the Long Home, 946 W. Main St., owned by Frankie Long. The Garber-Courtney Home, 733 W. Main St., owned by Bob and Tammy Courtney, previously was featured on the 2007 Christmas tour. It has undergone extensive changes. The Schroeder Home, 750 W. Main St., owned by Tony and Annie Schroeder, originally was featured on the 2000 Tri Kappa Tour of Homes.
It was damaged by a fire in recent years, but has been restored to its original charm.  The John Boyd Home was once the residence of a local silversmith and watchmaker. It also served as a boarding house in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was known as the Danner House.  The Patton and Long Homes, located side by side, are believed to be from the same era. Both homeowners have done extensive work to make them into charming cottages, which blend old with the new.
This year, Historic Madison Inc. will showcase the Schroeder Saddletree Factory, a first for the Christmas tour. Also featured will be Madison Presbyterian Church, celebrating 200 years; the Lanier Mansion, the Schofield House and the Jefferson County History Center. Gingerbread houses made by area children will be displayed at the History Center.  Hospitality sites include the Little Golden Fox, Galena Garlic Co. and the Seifert Short Folk Art and Doll Museum. 

The fifth annual “Great Cookie Caper!” will be another popular event held in conjunction with the home tour. Held at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St., a wide selection of homemade cookies and sweet treats will be for sale. Each year the Christmas tour donates all proceeds to a local charitable organization. This year’s sales will benefit South-eastern Indiana Voices for Children. Since its inception, the Cookie Caper, in conjunction with “Nights” has raised nearly $7,000. Past beneficiaries include Lide White Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity and the Jefferson County Animal Shelter.

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