Back to basics

Lanier Mansion restoration project
to return building to its original form

Son of J.F.D. Lanier
added multiple additions in late 1800s

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(July 2009) – The Lanier Mansion State Historic Site in Madison, Ind., is set to undergo a major restoration that will return it to its original appearance when it was first built in the 1840s.

Lanier Mansion

Photo by Don Ward

The Lanier Mansion State Historic
Site will remain open during the
restoration project, to be conducted
by The Poole Group Inc., a
Dillsboro, Ind., construction firm.

The project cost is expected to cost $369,189, and the Poole Group Inc. of Dillsboro, Ind., has been hired to do the work. The mansion will remain open during construction.
The historic home, designed by renowned architect Francis Costigan, remained relatively unaltered from its completion in 1844 until 1861, when J.F.D. Lanier, the original owner, deeded the property to his son, Alexander.
Under the son’s ownership, the mansion’s carefully designed Greek Revival style of architecture was changed to more of a Second Empire style with many additions, according to Gerry Reilly, site manager. The Lanier Mansion is one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country and today is acknowledged as the “Crown Jewel” of Madison’s National Historic Landmark District.
“This restoration will again unify the entire home back to its original Greek Revival style,” Reilly said.
Planning for this project began four years ago, and contracts were released and accepted just prior to the fire at the Jefferson County, Ind., Courthouse, according Connor Lee, of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Sites Marketing. That historic Courthouse was severely damaged May 20 when workers accidentally set off a fire as finishing touches were being completed in a renovation project.
“The Lanier Mansion contract states that no open flames be used on the building, and the contractor is aware of the concerns and will take all necessary precautionary measures,” said Lee. “Additionally, we are working very closely with our life safety systems contractor to ensure the safety and security during the project.”
Work to be done includes repair and restoration of the mansion’s main roof, gutters and downspouts, cupola, painting, east wing and the basement windows and doors. Work is anticipated to start July 1 and take 120 days.
The roof of the East Wing will also be replaced to restore the original roofline. The East Wing exterior will be refurbished and new wheelchair lift will be added to improve accessibility, according to Reilly.
When Costigan designed the house, the East Wing held a kitchen and informal dining room on the main floor and the servants’ quarters on the second floor, said Reilly. During the 1970s-80s, the East Wing was the site of a gift shop and a curator’s residence.
“This is a culmination of a long term project that will put many people to work,” said Lee. “Funds were appropriated and allotted from the May 2007 Capital Funds. Planning for that capital fund request began in 2003.”
In 1917, the mansion was donated to the Jefferson County Historical Society. When the State of Indiana gained control of the site in 1925, the General Assembly called for the structure to be restored accurately to 1850.
“This restoration is because of the law that created us as a historic site,” said Reilly. “It specified that we should interpret up to 1850.”
The current restoration effort is guided by scholarship, archival research and exhaustive investigation of the mansion’s physical fabric. Experts in the field of historic restoration, including the Lanier Mansion Foundation, the Cornerstone Society, Historic Madison Inc. and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, were asked to provide input into the project.
Because it is a state-owned property, funded in part by the state, the project was reviewed and endorsed by the Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology. Additionally, the State Historic Preservation Review Board approved the project proposal in April, 2008.

• For more information about the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, call (812) 265-3526.

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