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The Loft Tour

Madison Main Street event to promote use of upstairs spaces

The Fountain Building is among eight stops on tour

(October 2017) – Back by popular demand, The Loft Tours will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, in Madison, Ind., and presented by the Madison Main Street Program.
Want to see how the “Upper” half lives in downtown Madison? Buy a ticket and explore the upper parts of the unique buildings downtown and learn all about the history of the buildings. The tours started in 2015 and now, two years later, The Loft Tours are back.  Madison is constantly growing in the tourism business, and The Loft Tours are a perfect way to explore available spaces for either residential or commercial use.

The Loft Tour

• 10-4 Saturday, Oct. 7, in downtown Madison, Ind.
• Featuring eight stops on the tour.
• Tickets $15 and available at the Madison Visitors Center, Bad Apple Mac’s, Blush on Main, and Village Lights Bookstore.
• Sponsored by the Madison Main Street Program.

• (812) 493-4984

One of the buildings on The Loft Tour this year is the Fountain Building. Owners Bob and Tammy Courtney formed a company five years ago with a focus on historical preservation. They have repurposed and rehabilitated about a dozen downtown homes, but the Fountain Building is probably the biggest scale that they have done.
The Courtneys both have full time jobs, but they renovate buildings as more of a hobby with private investment and with their own capital. Following historic design guidelines, and with the approval of the historic district board, they maintain the character of the homes but also make it a loveable property again that contributes to the neighborhood.
“In my opinion, the best way to preserve our history here is to incentivize investment and have people own, live in and operate these properties,” said Bob Courtney. “A vacant building is a horrible investment for the community and the neighborhoods.”
The Madison Main Street Board of Directors organizes The Loft Tours. It is a self-guided tour, but there will be volunteers on hand to answer questions and provide help during the tour. There is an official Loft Tours app that can be downloaded that has lots of information about the history and old photographs of the buildings. The Loft Tours also have handouts with similar information for people who do not have the app. The tour will showcase eight rarely seen upper story spaces but will require lots of climbing and walking, so it is advised to wear comfortable shoes.

Photo by Sam Swartz

The ballroom on the third floor of The Fountain Building is ready to be renovated but sits in the meantime in its prime, in its original historic state.

Amy Smith, committee chair for The Loft Tours, said, “Even one of our bonus spaces, you’re able to climb Trinity United Methodist Church, which is the tallest point in Madison, and climb up into their bell tower area. They are letting us peek behind the scenes at the workings of one of the largest pipe organs in southeast Indiana.”
“We do have a hospitality site,” Smith said. “We encourage people to use the entire time the tour is open, get a bite to eat or do some shopping in the unique downtown shops. That’s the nice thing about this tour; it’s at your own pace.”
The Fountain Building is an Italian style home, built in 1860 as a single-family residence for Capt. Nathan Powell, who was a very successful businessman in Madison. Over the years, the building has been used for many different things but still has the historic preservation.
“At the turn of the 20th century, it became a commercial property,” Bob Courtney said. “But they didn’t take anything away from the character of the property. It still has ornate medallions, light fixtures, beautiful trim work, brass hinges and every room in this home has a beautiful cast iron fireplace.”
The Fountain Building was known as the Vail Holt Funeral for many years. There is a lot of life in the building, Courtney said. George Vail originally bought the place for his funeral home but eventually partnered with Jim Holt, making it the Vail Holt Funeral.

Photo provided

The 157-year-old Fountain Building is owned by Bob and Tammy Courtney.

The building’s main floor consists of offices and event spaces. There is a guesthouse that can accommodate up to eight guests on the second floor, and the third floor is an unfinished ballroom that will be tackled this fall.
The event room can host small parties or larger ones up to 100 people, Courtney said. It is meant for birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, weddings receptions, etc. The second floor is exceptionally renovated in a way that kept the history, but still is a unique place to stay. In the 19th century, it wasn’t uncommon to have a sink for the ladies of the household in the bedroom, which still exists today. 
“This location, next to the Broadway Fountain, is close to the Ohio River and within walking distance to everything they want to enjoy downtown. And it’s 1860s Italian home that can accommodate eight guests. There is nothing like this in downtown Madison,” Courtney said.
The 3rd floor, the ballroom, which is still in its original state, has been dormant for more than 150 years, and now it finally can breathe additional life into it. Wanting to complete the whole renovations of the house, the Courtneys plan to tackle the renovations for the ballroom this fall. The ballroom is full of old artifacts, such as old leather burial shoes or an old cooling table from the Civil War era.
“During this tour, we want people to get an appreciation of the historic characteristics of the property and how our spaces in downtown Madison can creatively and uniquely be utilized,” Courtney said. “Rarely do you get to see the second floor, but now you get to see both, a space that is already renovated and how it has been utilized and a non-renovated space. So people see what do you start with when you buy a property like this.”

Tour tickets are $15 and may be purchased at these locations: Bad Apple Mac’s, Blush on Main, Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, and Village Lights Bookstore. The tour is not handicap or stroller accessible and is best suited for adults.

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