Gaining recognition

Madison celebrates designation
as a National Historic Landmark DIstrict

U.S. Interior Acting Secretary tours town
before announcing the news

By Don Ward

(May 2006) – U.S. government officials in Washington, D.C., are learning what preservationists in Madison, Ind., already knew – that the historic downtown is full of unique architectural gems that still stand today as a tribute to its past.

Lynn Scarlett Presenting Award

Photo by Don Ward

U.S. Acting Interior Secretary
P. Lynn Scarlett presents the National
Historic Landmark District Award to Madison Mayor Al Huntington (left). With
Scarlett are U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel and
HMI Board President Merritt Alcorn.

Now that message will be communicated to the world via the city's designation as a National Historic Landmark District, thereby joining an elite list of only about 2,000 properties (only a small percentage are districts) in the country. The U.S. Interior Department's Acting Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett on April 12 announced the city's prestigious designation during a ceremony held at the Broadway Fountain. She was joined by more than 150 people and a group of Eggleston Elementary School children from Historic Madison Inc.'s Junior Preservation League to mark the occasion, which featured a number of speeches by local dignitaries. The historic district comprises most of the downtown, about 2,000 acres and more than 1,600 historic structures built between 1817-1939 and representing Federal, Greek Revival Italianate and other styles.
Earlier in the day, Scarlett toured the city aboard the Madison Trolley, along with host Madison Mayor Al Huntington, U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R.-New Albany, Indiana Department of Natural Resources director Kyle Hupfer, State Sen. Jim Lewis and other state and local officials.
Scarlett has served as Assistant Secretary since July 2001. She became Acting Secretary April 1 when Secretary Gale Norton resigned her post. President George W. Bush in March nominated former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as the new secretary.
During her remarks, Scarlett recalled some of the various historic sites she saw on the tour and praised residents for their efforts in preserving and maintaining its historic buildings, making the area a "living history" that still functions economically while providing a high quality of life.
The designation is for "not just one building, not just one home, but the entire community," Scarlett said. "Every community has stories to tell, but what is so wonderful about Madison is that you can still feel and see those stories because you still have these buildings that are 100 and 200 years past."
Scarlett said Madison has linked historic preservation with economic prosperity by "keeping it vibrant and active as you restore the past." She said Madison "embodies
Huntington praised Historic Madison Inc. for its work in initiating the application process to earn the designation, adding, "Our city is not just a museum, but a vibrant place to live and work." He continued, "This marks a great day in the rich history of Madison. In addition to state and regional attention, we can now enjoy elite national recognition on the same level as Savannah (Ga.) and Charleston (S.C.)."
Hupfer, speaking on behalf of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, said the state would "continue to play a strong role in Madison's future through the operation of the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site and Clifty Falls State Park." He noted the recent hotel renovation at Clifty Inn, which had been celebrated the previous Friday with a grand opening event. And he predicted that the governor's recently approved "Major Moves" initiative would soon generate enough money to help build a future Ohio River bridge in Madison.

What is a National
Historic Landmark District?

National Historic Landmarks are exceptional places that form a common bond between all Americans. They can be found in our national parks and in communities in every state and territory. Through the National Historic Landmarks Program, the National Park Service oversees the designation of these special places and helps to preserve them.
Today, there are about 76,000 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
National Historic Landmark Districts, meanwhile, are even more prestigious, with only about 2,000 so designated in the United States. To be so recognized, they must survive a rigorous application process by a National Park Service committee in Washington, D.C. The committee is comprised of archaeologists, historians, architects and other experts, according to U.S. Interior Department Acting Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett. From there, a recommendation is made to the park service's advisory board, then on to the Secretary of the Interior for final approval.
Scarlett said former Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed off on the recent batch of designation recommendations, including Madison's, just prior to her departure March 31.

HMI Executive Director John Staicer credited The Westerly Group for its consulting work on the application process for the national designation. He said the recognition "is the culmination of the dream of John Windle, founder of Historic Madison Inc., and it fulfills the dream of many people and many organizations, including property owners, residents, government agencies and nonprofit groups who have worked many years to make this dream a reality."
The application process began in 1999 and cost about $45,000, Staicer said. The process included about 600 letters written and submitted on behalf of the city. HMI provided some money but Staicer said most of the cost was covered from three sources: the Jefferson County Commissioners' Historic Preservation Fund; the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology; and the National Park Service.
After the ceremony, Scarlett met with reporters to elaborate on the impact this recognition poses for Madison. She said that based on studies of other cities that have earned the honor, Madison can expect a better chance of success when applying for future grant money through programs such as Preserve America or Save America's Treasures. Preserve America, initiated by President Bush in 2002, identifies more than 300 American cities to be eligible for grants totaling $10 million over two years. Madison was the first Indiana city to be so recognized. Scarlett also mentioned a historic preservation tax incentive program that has resulted in $3 billion in incentives since its inception. The program offers rewards for turning old buildings into useable housing or by creating jobs.
"Cooperative conservation is how we do the programs, and you embody cooperative conservation," she said.

Lynn Scarlett with kids

Photo by Don Ward

Lynn Scarlett shares a moment with school children following the award presentation.

HMI already has received $99,000 in grant money from Save America's Treasures fund to create a museum at the former A.M.E. Church in the Georgetown area of downtown. Staicer said additional grant applications are in progress for additional projects. Historic Eleutherian College, meanwhile, is working to secure funding to match a $200,000 grant from the Save America's Treasures fund.
Scarlett predicted that Madison would see more tourism and cited recent studies showing that 85 percent of Americans search out places of historic significance for their vacations. She said the designation also qualifies Madison for receiving technical assistance and advice on historic preservation from National Park Service officials. "Madison has the combination of two things - middle American values and great historic sites," she said.
Sodrel called Madison a "living history" because people live and work in the very areas that are considered historic. "This landmark designation shows that this is our nation's history – it's not just Madison's history or Indiana's history. It's there for all of us to enjoy."
Scarlett did her homework prior to arriving in Madison and asked some detailed questions during the trolley tour, narrated by city councilman Dave Adams. Asked later what specific Madison sites she would like to visit, she said the Francis Costigan house, an HMI property on Third Street designed by the famous Baltimore architect; the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site; and the Ben Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum, another HMI property.
"My father was an architect, and I am fascinated at how Costigan was able to design such a marvelous structure on a lot that is only 22 feet wide," she said. Scarlett left Madison for Bedford, Ind., where she was scheduled to speak at a Republican event later that evening.

Lynn Scarlett

Photo by Don Ward

Lynn Scarlett enjoys
a narrated tour of Madison aboard the Madison Trolley.

Other properties also received national designation that week, including Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., and the San Miguel Mission in California, to name a few. Scarlett could have visited any of those other sites that day but chose to make the announcement in Madison.
She did not actually sign the document designating Madison a National Historic Landmark District. That was done by Norton prior to her departure. "She got to sign it, but I get to do the fun stuff by coming here," she said.
Local officials, meanwhile, reveled in the announcement and what it could mean for the city.
"This is a great economic development boost to the city, and it should help attract visitors to the city," said John Galvin, HMI's president and former executive director. "When people move in and invest in historic buildings, they want it to be in a place that is compatible with the surroundings, and they can be sure of that in Madison."
Galvin said the designation is "one of the highest you can receive" in preservation. And it represents the largest so-recognized district in Indiana.
Staicer, Galvin's successor at HMI, said another ceremony and community reception would take place at a later date to celebrate the placement of a National Park Service bronze plaque that will mark the district's designation.
"This has enormous implications for tourism and economic development," Staicer said. "And I think it's a matter of city pride. Many residents knew this was a special place, and this designation validates it nationally."

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