Renovation of interior of the
Lanier Mansion is complete
The three-year, $100,000 project updates the east wing
Timeline for the
1800: James F.D. Lanier is born in Washington, N.C.
– Compiled by Lanier Mansion Site Manager Gerry Reilly
1817: Lanier comes to Madison, Ind., with his parents.
1819: Lanier marries Elizabeth Gardner (they eventually have eight children)
1825: Lanier purchases a lot of River Block Nine that includes a Federal style, two-story house (since demolished). It was located at the northwest corner of First and Elm streets.
1831: Lanier purchases the rest of River Block Nine.
1833: Lanier becomes president of the Madison branch of the Indiana State Bank.
1842: Construction of Lanier Mansion begins, with Francis Costigan as the architect.
1844: Lanier family moves into the mansion.
1846: Lanier’s first wife, Elizabeth, dies.
1848: Lanier marries Mary McClure (they eventually have three children). Lanier forms a new bank in partnership with Richard Winslow of New York City. Winslow and Lanier invest in railroads across the northern United States.
1851: James F.D. Lanier moves to New York City.
1861: J.F.D. Lanier deeds the house to his oldest son, Alexander.
1861 – 1865: J.F.D. Lanier loans the State of Indiana over $1 million dollars during the Civil War.
1861 – 1895: Some of Alexander’s modifications to the mansion and grounds include adding a mansard roof and bay window to the east wing, plus gardens and greenhouses on the grounds and a coal furnace.
1889: Alexander marries Stella Godman Sering.
1895: Alexander dies.
1896: Stella sells the house to a granddaughter of J.F.D. Lanier, Elizabeth Davidson.
1902: Elizabeth sells the house to another of J.F.D. Lanier’s granddaughters, Drusilla Cravens.
1917: April 26: Drusilla sells the property to her uncle, Charles Lanier, for $1. April 30: Charles donates the Mansion and grounds to the Jefferson County Historic Society.
1925: JCHS donates the mansion to the State of Indiana to become a memorial to James F.D. Lanier. The law accepting the donation states in part “…the State of Indiana hereby pledges its faith to maintain in perpetuity the real estate so conveyed and transferred as a public memorial to the distinguished public services of James F.D. Lanier and as a permanent example of a notable Indiana home of the decade 1850 to 1860.”
1926: Lanier Mansion opens to the public as a museum with (mostly) period-correct furnishings.
1937: Flood waters from the Ohio River fill the basement of the Lanier Mansion.
1940s: The state acquires the property north of the mansion and the city agrees to close the portion of First Street that separates this property from the original Lanier grounds. The park thus created becomes “Cravens Square.”
1990s: The interior of the mansion (excluding the east wing) undergoes a restoration that includes period correct carpeting and wallpapers and the painted surfaces inside and out are returned to the original colors. The Carriage House is reconstructed.
2014: Operation of the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site is transferred from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to the newly created Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corp.
2017: Restoration of the mansion’s east wing is completed.
(January 2018) – Fans of historical architecture will soon be able to see the newly restored east wing of the historic Lanier Mansion in Madison, Ind.
“It took 20 years to restore the Greek Revival home, first built in 1844 by railroad financier James F. D. Lanier,” said Gerry Reilly, site manager of the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site.
The first phase started 20 years ago on the exterior and structure with a cost of $350,000. The interior restoration that began on the east wing three years ago and at a cost of $100,000 is now complete.
Link Ludington has been around the mansion for much of that time. Ludington is currently Director of Historic Preservation for The Indiana State Museum and Sites. Earlier, he served as Lanier Mansion curator in 1999 and 2000.
The story of how he came to Madison may sound familiar to many Madison residents.
“I have lived here more than 40 years,” Ludington said. “My family first came to Madison in 1968. We came because we saw the Lanier Mansion on a state road map. During that trip we saw the mansion and the Shrewsbury House. We enjoyed our visit to Madison, so we sold the family farm in Yorktown and bought out first house on Jefferson Street in 1971.”
Ludington stayed in Madison after college and got his first job at Historic Madison Inc., a preservation organization.
“Years and years ago, there was an apartment in the Lanier Mansion east wing that was used for the curator,” Ludington said. “It was discontinued in 1980s.”
Ludington was not curator until 1999-2000, so he never stayed in that apartment.
“Our office was in the second floor in the servant’s room,” he said. “The breakfast room was the gift shop, and the kitchen was a break room that was used for volunteer functions.”
The space was all very cramped, and the apartment was not suitable for a family.
“I spent a lot of time in the second floor because the office was close to the main part of the house. In 2000, we started doing ground work for mansion overhaul.”
The first major job was the reconstruction of the roof profile, which had to be finished before the interior work was started.
“We did lots of intensive research and investigation before we could start.” Ludington said. “When the roof and exterior was finished, we could then devote our attention to what the interior should look like.”
Even as an office there wasn’t facilities for visitors.
“It has taken many years to finally get around to one of the projects I felt was important – the east wing,” said Ludington. “That is where the kitchen was.”
Ludington compares the east wing to an old saying he had heard that goes: “No matter where I serve my guests, the kitchen is the heart of the household.”
“Without the kitchen, we never had the opportunity to show how the whole household operated. We showed how the family lived, but not how the house operated.”
Ludington uses an example about how many people it takes to run a modern household.
“The family would not have been able to run that household without help,” he said.
The Lanier Mansion was open to the public but still as a museum, not a working historical household.
People can go in the rooms but still maintain the same standards as a visit to the museum in Indianapolis. For example, staff will not touch any of the furniture without wearing gloves.
Reilly proudly shows visitors through the east wing of the Greek revival home designed by architect Francis Costigan. Visitors marvel at the huge spiral staircase, but it is the east wing that gives the best glimpse of how the household operated.
Reilly is a historian, with a master’s degree in history and museum studies, “I have worked museums for over 30 years,” he said. “It is just part of what I do. I like that we interpret the time period.”
Adding the east wing to the tour helps with that historical interpretation. It is in that wing where visitors will see the kitchen and the servant quarters for the only live-in staff member, Margaret Robinson. When she worked for the Lanier family, she was 23 years old and had been born in Ireland.
The house became a museum in 1926, but the east wing was a gift shop, with a second floor apartment for the curator and offices.
When the nearby Lide White Boys and Girls Club building was acquired several years ago, the Lanier Mansion offices were moved across the street, which allowed for the renovation of the east wing. The building at 601 W. First St. also now houses the county tourism offices.
Photo by John Sheckler
Lanier Mansion Site Manager Gerry Reilly stands at the gate of Madison’s busiest tourism attraction. A three-year renovation of the interior of the mansion is now complete.
There is always more stuff to do,” said Reilly. “The entire house is restored to 1850 period but will never be totally finished because of research and new things we find out. For example, we might switch out an artifact.”
Historic sites in other places may have proper period furniture in different rooms, but Reilly likes to keep everything authentic.
“Costigan was ahead of his time,” said Reilly. “The mansion really isn’t that large, but it has a grand feel.”
Restoration of the Lanier Mansion was a labor of love for those who work there.
“It was most enjoyable working with David Buchanan, curator of decorative arts,” said Reilly. “ “We had to find the proper artifacts, furniture, pottery and candlesticks. We still have small things to finish, like doors on cabinets. There is a large painting that will go into one of the parlors. We are looking for a period frame. The work just goes on and on. There are just always more things to do.”
Now that the roof is finished, there is repair work on the foundation of the house and some painting left to do.
“Anyone who owns an old house knows it is a constant labor,” he said.
Photo by John Sheckler
Lanier Mansion Site Manager stands in a bedroom that has been furnished as it might have been in the 1840s.
Reilly also likes to tell the story of Lanier and his family.
• Individuals or organizations wishing to donate to the Lanier Mansion projects can call Gerry Reilly at (812) 273-0556.
“He helped save Indiana’s finances at least three times,” said Reilly. “In the 1860s, he lent Kent State more than a million dollars when a million was a lot of money.”
There was a dedication ceremony for foundation members in October, and more events are being planned.
“We may have an open house in spring,” said Reilly. “We wanted to make the house look like what it was before.”
Visitors may have seen the east wing during the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes on Dec. 1-2.
“Money to finance the restorations came from multiple sources,” said Reilly.
“Lots of the money is state money. There is some from the Community Foundation (of Madison and Jefferson County) and the Lanier Mansion Foundation, but in the last 10 years, lots of members have given small amounts. Any amount is appreciated.”
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