Spring has sprung at the Lanier Mansion

Written by Anne Fairchild, State Historic Sites Eastern Region School Programs Manager

Top 10 Ways to Know Spring has come to the Lanier Mansion
1.  Gardening buffs attended our “Garden Affair” luncheon and discovered new ways to make their gardens more beautiful and fun!

2.  Even with cutbacks, some schools are still planning their annual spring field trips 

3.  Robins are fighting to see who gets the primo nesting spots

4.  We already mowed the lawn last week

5.  Dog walkers, cyclists and runners are out and about

6.  The Easter Bunny and Mother Goose helped us give away a thousand Easter eggs during our “Easter Egg Hunt on the Lawn”

7.  People dug shorts and sandals out of their closets to stroll along the River Walk as temperatures rose into the 80s last week

8.  Spring is in full bloom with flowering forsythia bushes, dogwoods, cherry trees, redbuds, daffodils, tulips, magnolias and more

9.  Our first wedding of the season is next week

10.  The visitors are back and enjoying the sights and sounds of Madison by visiting the Lanier Mansion, watching barges towing cargo up and down the beautiful Ohio River and taking in the fresh spring weather

Spring is an excellent time to visit many of our State Historic Sites. For information, please visit indianamuseum.org/sites.

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Bricks and Mortar

Written by Link Ludington, Architectural Historian at Indiana State Museum

Some historic buildings are not simply preserved in their current condition, but instead are actually restored to an earlier historical appearance. This is what is happening at the Lanier Mansion in Madison, which is being restored to its appearance in 1850, when J.F.D. Lanier and his family were still in residence. The restoration involves reversal of alterations to the home which require locating matching bricks to fill in missing masonry. On most homes and buildings this would be a simple task. But a 19th century Greek Revival mansion like Lanier presents a special challenge.

Recently, I traveled to Madison to determine the target dimensions for the replacement brick, which will have to be custom-made because of their unusual characteristics. During the mid-19th century (when the Lanier Mansion was built, and when Madison was one of Indiana’s largest cities), most bricks were made by hand by forming wet clay in wooden molds before being dried and fired. Some were pressed in cast iron molds in brick-making machines. Most modern brick is mass-produced by a machine that produces a “ribbon” that is then cut into individual bricks by wire grids.

The bricks that were used in concealed areas of Lanier Mansion were the common hand-molded brick like that found in buildings all over Madison (and elsewhere throughout Indiana) from that period. The facing bricks used in all areas that were visible in the exterior, however, were an example of the special machine-made pressed brick with smooth texture and fairly sharp edges, but the brick making “machines” of that time were still operated by hand. Each of the pictures shows the difference — one is the smooth, machine-made, pressed brick, while the other is the hand-molded brick. It’s really hard to tell the difference. Machine-made pressed bricks can also be found in several other buildings in Madison from the same period, including the Shrewsbury House, another masterpiece designed and built by Francis Costigan, the same architect who designed and built the Lanier Mansion.

Machine-made pressed brick.

Common hand-molded brick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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History was dead and crawling …

Written by Anne Fairchild, eastern region program manager for the State Historic Sites

110609_spooky_mansion_03This year, history was dead and crawling at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site.

It is always fascinating to ponder the mysteries and beauty of architectural elements. But it turns out that it is way more fun to “spook up” your own architecture. And that’s just what we did on Oct. 24 at the “Spooky Mansion” program here in Madison, Indiana.

Over 350 monsters, princesses and heroes descended upon us with their chaperones to be spooked, eat candy, listen to hauntingly fun stories and, in general, have a great time.

110609_spooky_mansion_01In one activity, we provided a drawing of Lanier Mansion, in all its Greek Revival glory, and challenged our visiting mini-goblins to make it as spooky as possible. To help with this, we provided glow in the dark home accessories like skeletons, crows and creepy trees to make it all the more frightening. The picture shown here was made by a 42-year-old mansion employee to decorate her refrigerator.

However, everyone had the opportunity to see the real mansion as well. The rooms were decorated to be just spooky enough so that our small visitors would not have nightmares when they returned home. It also gave people a chance to view our basement, which is usually off-limits to visitors. I’m not sure that ,with skeletons and creepy gangs of dolls, visitors had much of a chance to appreciate all the architectural elements of this home. Oh well.

For those who don’t think that history is alive, we also had our “Night Spirits” program for adult and general audiences on Oct. 23. This isn’t really designed to be spooky, but to use the mansion as a backdrop for hair-raising theater performances that included grave-robbers, dead soldiers, grisly murders, hangings and other infamous but true stories from Madison’s past. We also celebrated the 200th birthday of the most depressed (and depressing) man in America: Edgar Allen Poe. Poe was the West Point classmate of Thomas Morris, superintendent of the Madison-Indianapolis Railroad.

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Antiquing at Lanier

Written by Gerry Reilly, site manager at Lanier Mansion State Historic Site

lanier_antique_marketAfter about a year of planning, the first Annual Madison Antiques Market was on Sunday, Oct. 4. There was a wide variety of items from the late 19th and the early 20th century offered by 35 dealers. Some of the treasures I saw were an early 19th century chest of drawers in the Hepplewhite style in good condition and a life-size ceramic bust of Napoleon Bonaparte.

I couldn’t resist making a purchase! I lived in Wheeling, WV, for almost 20 years before I moved to Madison. While walking through the show, I spotted a small ceramic bowl made by the Ohio Valley China Co. which produced true porcelain in Wheeling in the 1880s. This was unusual since most true porcelain at that time was made in Europe. The company only lasted three years. I couldn’t pass up the chance to own a piece made by the company, especially since the price was only $4!

The weather was perfect that day and almost 400 antique-lovers attended. Several dealers commented on the beautiful setting and the hospitality of the sponsoring organizations. The show manager, the Cornerstone Society, and the Lanier Mansion Foundation each received a portion of the admission fees. If you couldn’t make it in 2009, be sure to join us in 2010!

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Why Restoration?

Written by Laura Minzes, deputy director Historic Sites Structures and Real Estate

 How do you return a building to a specific time period? Why would you do this?

The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is undertaking the restoration of the Lanier Mansion to its 1850. Why, you ask? Well, first and most important is that J. F. D. Lanier, the building’s original and most prominent owner, occupied the house from 1844 to 1851. Mr. Lanier was a prominent banker, stockholder and financier who loaned the state money not just once but TWICE (and it was paid back by the state both times!). During the Civil War and after Mr. Lanier had relocated to New York, he made unsecured loans totaling over $1 million, first to enable Gov. Oliver P. Morton to outfit the Indiana troops, and then to enable the state to keep up interest payments on its debt.

The second reason is that when the Lanier Mansion was designated a State Historic Site in 1925, the legislature mandated that the structure reflect its 1850 appearance. And finally, the roof needed to be replaced, so it was the opportune time.

lanier_drawingNow for the “how” … Besides being a State Historic Site for over 80 years, Lanier Mansion has been a National Historic Landmark since 1994. Designed by architect Frances Costigan and considered to be one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in the county, the restoration to a different time period (presently it represents 1870) is not taken lightly as it involves careful removal of later additions. The drawing shows the way the Mansion will look after the restoration.

Following three years of formal study and many more years of informal discovery, the Lanier Roof project will restore the original roof line of the East Wing of the Mansion.

Workers replace gutters installed in the 1980s that had reached the end of their useful life.

Workers replace gutters installed in the 1980s that had reached the end of their useful life.

A little research and investigation always reveals fascinating secrets! Stay tuned …

The interior of the east wing with the dark line depicting the original roof line, the lower half of a window as well as the center door that were there in 1850 and the two side doors that weren’t.

The interior of the east wing with the dark line depicting the original roof line, the lower half of a window as well as the center door that were there in 1850 and the two side doors that weren’t.

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