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Extreme Makeover

Historic Madison Inc. receives grant to help renovate Shrewsbury House

Preservation grant will be used to restore iron fence

(August 2016) – One of the top restoration projects in the nation is happening right here in Madison, Ind. It’s also one of the most exciting. When the $2.5 million project to restore the Shrewsbury-Windle Home is completed “sometime in 2017, it will be pretty special,” said John M. Stacier, president and executive director of Historic Madison Inc., which owns the home.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

John Staicer, president and executive director of Historic Madison Inc., poses at the Shrewsbury House, which the preservation organization is renovating. A $50,000 matching grant will help restore an iron fence there.

The house will be re-opened to the public and will be used for special occasions, according to Stacier.
In July, it was announced that HMI had received a $50,000 state historic preservation matching grant to restore the iron fence and stone base that surround the house. The grant still needs state approval from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Stacier said. The iron fence has a decorative pattern that the architect used from a carpenter’s handbook of that period.
Meanwhile, HMI has spent $500,000 in work to restore the majestic Greek Revival style home that it acquired in 2011 from the estate of HMI founders John T. and Ann Steinbrecher Windle. With grant funds from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Jeffris Family Foundation, HMI has done extensive work on the outside of the house, said Stacier.
In a 15-month period of time, the exterior of the brick house was cleaned with special chemicals. Tuck pointing was done. Shutters were cleaned and repaired. The roof was replaced. Windows were cleaned and repaired. A ramp was added. Shrubs and trees were removed to open the view, and the overgrown south garden was cleared. New brick sidewalks were installed. On the south portico, the columns and their stone supports have been restored. That area was ready to collapse, according to Stacier.
Inside the house, “we have done paint analysis so we know all the paint that was used,” Stacier said. On the east side of the first floor of the home is “one of the great Greek Revival rooms in the United States,” said Stacier. “It is one of a handful that still has the existing finish on the walls, and it may be the oldest.”
“They liked me and hired me, so I started working with them,” she said. Since then, she has worked on historic projects in many other states.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Marva Hereford paints the spiral staircase inside the Shrewsbury House as part of its renovation process. A closeup look at the iron fence is pictured below.

“I have worked from Washington, D.C., to El Paso, Texas, in wallpapering, and I have visited historic houses abroad,” she said. Some of the historic houses include the Rutherford B. Hayes home in Ohio, My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, Ky., Farmington, Locust Grove in Louisville, the White House in Oklahoma City, and private homes in Georgia and Williamsburg, Va. She also worked on a private home in Chillicothe, Ohio, that was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the architect who designed the U.S. Capitol.
Interior repairs to be made in the 167-year-old home include installation of air conditioning, replacement of old electrical, plumbing and heating systems. There will be a catering station in the old kitchen, restrooms accessible for persons with handicaps, and an efficiency apartment.
Another aspect of the HMI restoration project is to rehabilitate the Hyatt House at the corner of Poplar and Second streets.
“When that is done, HMI will move its offices there, “Staicer said. “We will create an historic campus.”
The campus includes the Hyatt Garden. To the north is the Sullivan House, the first property bought by HMI. To the east is the Schofield House, birthplace of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana and not an HMI property, and to the south, the Shrewsbury-Windle House.
“We need the rest of the community to help us,” Stacier said. “We have had strong community support for these important historic properties.”
Moreover, HMI has had strong support from elsewhere in the state and nation. To oversee these projects, HMI has developed a two-part Historic Structures Report, which is its roadmap to restoration; a Financial Feasibility Study; and a Capital Campaign.
The Windles’ estate provided for future maintenance and upkeep of the Shrewsbury-Windle property. Riverboat Capt. Lewis Shrewsbury had the majestic home built in 1846-1849 in the Greek Revival style. It is an example of Regency, which pushed vertical lines and measurements higher.
Capt. Shrewsbury later served as Mayor of Madison, and he died in office. His home is the most important surviving piece of 19th century architecture by master architect Francis Costigan. Costigan also was the architect of the Lanier Mansion and his own home at 408 W. Third St. in Madison. The latter is now an HMI-owned property.
In 1948, the Windles, of Chicago, visited the area for an antiques’ auction and happened to see the house, then on the market. John Windle had retired as a reference librarian at Newberry Library in Chicago. Ann Windle’s aunt taught French at Hanover College. After seeing the house, they stayed in town a few more days to discuss buying it. They moved in the next year and set about to preserve its historic appearance and character.
Avid antique collectors, they operated an antique shop at the Shrewsbury House and opened their house to the public. In 1960, they founded HMI, an organization dedicated to preserving Madison’s remarkable collection of historic properties. Initially, 133 square blocks of the city were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eventually, the entire downtown was designated as a National Historic Landmark District. The Windles’ home, the Shrewsbury House, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
John Windle died in 1987 at age 86. Ann Windle died in 2009 at age 98. Both were honored many times as a couple and individually during their marriage of 49 years.

Antiques from the Windle home are being restored. Some 15,000 pounds of them are in storage, even after the HMI auction of smaller items. Light fixtures are being restored. The carpets will be sent to specialty mills in England for restoration. 
“We have gotten some original Shrewsbury family pieces – a cradle, a child’s rocking chair and an octagonal table,” he added. They have been donated by Carole Wood Gorenflo, and they will be displayed in the house.
Meanwhile, Marva Hereford of Milton, Ky., currently is doing the painstaking work of cleaning the cherry rails on the freestanding spiral staircase, said to be the best architectural aspect of the house. Built of 53 pine steps and cherry rails, the staircase was designed to help cool the house. Hot air rises to the top of the stairs and escapes out of attic windows.

Stacier considers Hereford to be an expert in wallpapering and woodwork restoration. In 1997, she began her career by helping professional wallpaper hangers at the Lanier Mansion in Madison.

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