Lanier Home Cuts

State budget cuts to reduce use
of Lanier Mansion in Candlelight Tour

By Don Ward

MADISON, Ind. (July 2003) – A 5 percent cut ordered in the operational and capital budgets of all state agencies will not shut down visitation at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, but it could impact future availability of the mansion during the annual Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes.
The Mansion is an annual participant in the popular holiday event, which features indoor tours of private homes and public historic sites, including one property owned by the Historic Madison Inc. Lanier Mansion will take part in both weekends again this year on Nov. 28-30 and Dec. 5-7. But the budget cuts could mean the mansion would only be open for one of the two tour weekends in 2004.
“If that happens, Lanier would probably take part in only the December weekend,” Link Ludington, curator of the state-owned Lanier Mansion, told the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau board during its June 11 meeting. “There’s just no way we can afford to staff it with the magnitude of these cuts.”
That has county tourism officials scrambling to come up with a plan to replace the mansion during its first weekend, which usually is around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Link Ludington

Link Ludington, Lanier Mansion curator

“The Nights committee has been discussing this and will try to find another site to fill in the first weekend,” said tourism director Linda Lytle. She added that attendance has varied over the years between the two weekends, with no one weekend predominately busier than the other.
Committee members have debated the notion of reducing the event to one weekend but no decision has been made to do that, Lytle said. “If we had to vote, we would vote for one weekend because (committee chairperson and tourism staff member) Christy (Burnett) struggles to get houses on that first weekend because it’s Thanksgiving weekend.” However, Lytle noted that there are more historic homes renovated and available for touring than when the event first started. She added that the six days requires many volunteers working many long hours.
“I don’t think we should make that decision (to reduce it to one weekend),” said CVB board president Bob Wolfschlag. “Let the committee decide.”
Lytle said the committee is still discussing the issue with the priority of keeping it “a quality event.” The committee tried to avoid featuring the same homes as the Tri-Kappa Tour of Homes, held biannually in October. The committee also tries to avoid featuring the same homes from year to year.
Ludington said a bill in the state legislature to require an admission for all state historic sites died in committee this past session. A minimum donation policy is still in place at the mansion, although not mandatory.

Lanier Mansion

Photo by Don Ward

Lanier Mansion
State Historic Site

The Lanier staff’s moving expenses into new offices with the tourism office at 601 W. First St. “in all likelihood will require private money,” Ludington said. The state budget cuts threatened to close some of the 14 historic sites or curtail their operations. The cuts amounted to $123,000 of this year’s $2.4 million operating budget for the sites.
The state’s historic sites employ about 40 full-time workers and 40 seasonal employees, according to Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials.
With regard to the Candlelight tour, Lytle said, “We’ll be all right for now, and then we’ll decide what we’ll do in 2005.”

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