Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lanier Mansion – Madison Indiana

Lanier Mansion
Lanier Mansion
Lanier Mansion

The Lanier Mansion is an Indiana State Historic Site owned and managed by the Indiana State Museum. The 1834 mansion, built by James Lanier, is open for public tours and is well worth visiting.
Spiral Staircase
Spiral Staircase

Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums - South East Edition
Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums
 South East Edition
Designed by architect Francis Costigan, the house was constructed between 1834 and 1835. During the time Lanier lived in the house, from 1844 until 1851, there were iron foundries to the north and east and hog lots to the east. The railroad station lay to the west and to the south Lanier had constructed the wharves and warehouses he needed to conduct business. The home features Corinthian columns, a spiral staircase, round doors and round, frieze windows.
State Ownership
The Lanier family owned the home until 1917, when the family donated it to Jefferson County. The State of Indiana acquired the house in 1925 to operate as a State Historic Site. The National Historic Landmark Foundation listed it on April 19, 1994.
James Lanier
James F.D. Lanier (November 22, 1800 – August 27, 1881)

Born in Washington, North Carolina to Alexander Chalmers and Drusilla Doughty Lanier, he migrated to Madison, Indiana at age 17 with his parents. He studied law at Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky, and then got a job as assistant clerk. He became the Clerk of the Indiana House of Representatives at Corydon. He assisted in the move when the capital transferred from Corydon to Indianapolis in 1825.
Lanier became involved in finance and became President of the Bank of Indiana, an institution he had helped the State of Indiana establish. He gained majority stocks in the Madison branch of that bank in 1833.
By the late 1830's Lanier spearheaded the push to build the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. This profitable railroad, along with his banking success, led to his accumulation of a large fortune. In 1844, he built his mansion in Madison, on a spot overlooking the Ohio River.
Financial Savior of Indiana
Lanier served twice to save the State of Indiana from financial ruin. In 1844, the State reeled from the massive Internal Improvement Act of 1836. The passage of the Act had strained the State's resources to the breaking point. He arranged with foreign investors to reduce the State's debt in return for transferring the property to the creditors. This saved the State from bankruptcy. During the Civil War, the Federal Government requested that Indiana raise and equip troops to fight in the war. Governor Oliver P. Morton requested that Lanier, who by now lived in New York, to lend the State a half million dollars. Lanier complied with the request and followed it up with a later loan of a half million dollars. He received no guarantee of repayment for these loans. The State did repay him by 1870.
To New York
Lanier moved to New York, never again to come to Indiana, in 1851 to manage new businesses he had started there. He died in 1881. The family retained possession of the mansion. His son, Alexander C. Lanier, lived in the home from 1851 until 1895, continuing to develop the home and garden during that time. The State of Indiana acquired the property and restored it. It is now a State Historic Site, open to the public.
Excerpted from the author's book:
Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums - South East Edition

Francis Costigan
Native to Washington, DC, Costigan began his career in construction as a carpenter working in Baltimore. He studied architecture and became influenced by the work of New York architect Minard Lafever. An economic depression in Baltimore led him to migrate to the prosperous town of Madison, Indiana in 1837. During the time he spent in Madison, he developed an excellent reputation, designing many of the town's structure, including the old Madison Hotel, the Shrewsbury home, Francis Costigan House as well as several others. Fourteen of his designs still stand in Madison's National Landmark Historic District. A brochure, available at Madison's Visitor Center, has a brochure that lists them. Costigan would migrate to Indianapolis in 1851, designing many of the buildings in the State Capital. These include the Institute for the Education of the Blind, the Bates House, and the Odd Fellows Building. Costigan died in Indianapolis and is interred at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Touring the Mansion

Visitors may tour the mansion. Museum staff conducts tours hourly, beginning on the hour. The tours visit all three levels of the home and allow some fine views of the river. Tickets are available at the Visitor Center at 601 First Street, which is just across from the mansion. Photos permitted, but no flash. The outside gardens are available to walk through at no charge.
For more information, contact:

Lanier Mansion 
601 W. First Street
Madison Indiana

VisitMadison, Inc.
601 W. First Street
Madison, IN 47250

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