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Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes

Schussler house to be among those featured on home tour

Stewart recently bought, researched history of house

(November 2017) – Gregory Stewart has found that sometimes Christmas dreams do come true.
When the annual Nights Before Christmas Homes Tour starts at the end of November in Madison, Ind., his newly remodeled historic home will be one of the featured homes on the tour.
The tour dates are Nov. 24-25 and Dec. 1-2. Tour hours are 5-9 p.m. Fridays, and 3-9 p.m. Saturdays.

Nights Before Christmas
Candlelight Tour of Homes


• Dates: Nov. 24-25; Dec. 1-2 in Madison, Ind.
• Tour Times: 5-9 p.m. Fridays; 3-9 p.m. Saturdays
• Tickets: $15 pre-sale through Nov. 10; then $20 after for adults. Children ages 5-12 are $5. Available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St. and at their website. Tickets also available at The Little Golden Fox, The Primitive Porch, Madison Chamber, German American Bank (Madison, Hanover) and Jefferson County Historical Society.
• Organizing Sponsor: VisitMadison Inc.
• Information and Tickets: (812) 265-2956 or
1-800-559-2956. www.NightsBeforeChristmas.com

Private Homes and Businesses:

• Dr. Charles H. Schussler House, 514 Jefferson St. (owner: Gregory Stewart)
• Schaerli Cottage, 719 W. Third St. (owners: John and Sandy Schaerli)
• The McKay Home, 808 W. Main St. (owners:  Chuck and Cindy McKay)
• The Dunn-Lynch Home, 302 Elm St. (owners: Andy and Amber Lynch)
• The Brown Home, 606 E. Second St. (owners: Michael and Kate Brown)

Public Sites:

• First Christian Church, 512 W. Main St.
• The Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, 511 W. First St.
• Masonic Schofield House, 217 W. Second St.
• Jefferson County History Center, 615 W. First St.
• Shrewbury-Windle House, 301 W. First St.

Hospitality Sites:

• The Primitive Porch, 217 E. Main St
• Little Golden Fox, 602 W. Main St.
• Siefert Short Folk Art and Doll Museum, 113 E. Third St.

Related Events:

• The Great Cookie Caper will be held at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center from 4-7 p.m. Fridays and 1-7 p.m. Saturdays (while supplies last).
• A Children’s Gingerbread House Workshop will be held from 9-11 a.m. and noon - 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Jefferson County History Center, 615 W. First St. Gingerbread Houses will be on display during the home tour. Fee $7 each. Reserve by Nov. 15 at (812) 265-2335.
• An Adult Gingerbread Workshop will be held from 6:30-9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Jefferson County History Center. Enjoy a creative night including sips and nibbles. Fee $15 per person or $25 per couple. Reserve by Nov. 11 at (812) 265-2335.

“It has always been a dream of mine to have a house like this,” said Stewart. “I waited until I was in my 40s to do it. There is not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what  it was like to be a person living here in 1849.”
Stewart, 47, is a health care executive who moved here from Charlestown, Ind., to buy and renovate the 1849 Dr. Schussler home on Jefferson Street.
“I got the house in April and just completed remodeling of all interior and exterior areas, except the Carriage house,” he added. “Dr. Schussler helped found the first hospital in the area. There was originally a physician office in the basement. It has a brick floor.”
Stewart has researched the history of the house.
“Local folklore is that there were surgeries performed there,” he said. “I have tried to do research and have validated the physician office but not the surgeries. I am still trying to learn history of the area and the house.”
Stewart is very serious about keeping the house the way it was when first built. He provided close oversight over bonded-insured contractors. When he needed to be away from the house, his parents would stay there to be sure the process did not slow down.
“I personally would not take on projects that were outside my scope of experience and ability,” Stewart said. “It was a lot more than I expected when I started. I wanted a blank slate to decorate to my style, tastes and aesthetic.”
When the time came for the final decorating, he took a hands-on approach and even made the drapes himself.
One day, Stewart had a surprise visitor from Historic Preservation at the Indiana Museum and Historic Sites who had information about the history of the home.
“He came and told me this is one of the (Francis) Costigan homes in town,” said Stewart. “I have done everything possible to keep the house intact and as close as possible to what it was originally. It is an injustice when people take a home like this and modernize instead of restore. To think about all the craftsmanship that went into it, why update when you could leave it like it was.”
It is another blessing for Stewart that the home is on the Christmas Tour.
“For the tour, the house will certainly be decked,” said Stewart. “I go way overboard for Christmas. I don’t think there will be a room that will not be filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas.”
The final step for Stewart’s plans for the home is the carriage house.
“I will go before the board to ask permission to remove a wooden addition that was added in the 1950s,” said Stewart. “I want to take it back to what a carriage house looked like when the house was first built. I want it to look like what a person would see if they walked into a carriage house in the 1840s.”
Some of his plans are whimsical.
“I wouldn’t mind getting a buggy, and I want period tools on the walls.”

Photo by John Sheckler

Gregory Stewart’s home on Jefferson Street in Madison, Ind., was recently remodeled.

The Nights Tour, organized by VisitMadison Inc., has become a popular holiday tradition over the years.
“The Christmas tour has been a holiday tradition in Madison for 36 years,” said VisitMadison Inc. Group Tour Director Marci Jones. “Local home owners share their homes with visitors and residents during this popular event. Without their generosity and sense of community, this wonderful experience would not be possible.”
The tour will include five private homes as well as several historic buildings including the Lanier Mansion. This year, Historic Madison Inc. will showcase the Shrewsbury-Windle Home, which has recently undergone a four-year restoration at a cost of nearly $2 million.
It is suggested that visitors wear easy slip-on shoes since they may be required to remove them or slip on provided booties at some homes. This tour also requires walking and climbing stairs and is not handicap accessible.
It is also important to dress accordingly for winter weather, since there may be lines at some locations

Photo by John Sheckler

Gregory Stewart poses in the front room of the Dr. Charles Schussler House. He says that during the remodel he tried to keep the house as close as possible to its original condition.

All proceeds generated from this tour benefit the non-profit organizations that make this event possible.
Hospitality Sites are located along the tour route. Visitors may feel free to stop in to use the restroom and have free refreshment.
One tasty addition to the tour has become popular.

Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes has held the “Great Cookie Caper” for the last several years. Each year a local charitable organization is selected to participate. All proceeds from the event are then donated to the chosen organization. The 2017 beneficiary of all Cookie Caper proceeds is the Jefferson County Youth Shelter.

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