THE HMI STORY
Since 1960 Historic Madison, Inc. has worked tirelessly to preserve and save the unique and fragile historic environment that has earned Madison its national reputation. HMI is the oldest, and most trusted organization dedicated to historic preservation in the city. Founded in 1960 by John T. Windle and a group of preservation minded business leaders to save the c. 1820 Jeremiah Sullivan house from demolition, HMI has grown from there and is recognized as a leading local historic preservation organization in United States.
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A JEWEL ON THE OHIO RIVER
Madison clings to a sliver of Ohio River shoreline nestled against 400 foot high bluffs in southeastern Indiana. Historians and preservationists have lauded the town for its well preserved & diverse 19th century architecture . Madison boasts perhaps the largest contiguous National Historic Landmark District (NHL) in the country, with over 1,600 historic structures packed into 133 blocks. Included are homes, churches, commercial & industrial buildings, government offices, carriage houses, and more. Federal and Greek Revival style buildings predominate. Main Street has been called one of the most stunning historic commercial districts in the US. For a Midwestern city of 12,000, this is a remarkable legacy.
THE PATH TO PRESERVATION
Founded in 1809, a flood of ambitious newcomers transformed a log cabin hamlet into one of the state’s leading cities. They invested their wealth from real estate speculation, banking, river trade, farming, milling & other industries in beautiful, and even stunning buildings. When the Civil War erupted, river trade dried up and stagnation set in.
Madison became a sleepy backwater. The Ohio River flood of 1937 destroyed the old riverfront. During World War II many people carved their gracious 19th century homes into apartments due to a housing shortage . Post-War suburban development on the bluffs above the old town shifted economic activity away from the old town center.
By the mid-1950s, Main Street business owners rehabbed storefronts with plate glass display windows. Some covered their properties over with aluminum. Beautiful architectural details liked carved stone, metal window trim and decorative iron storefronts disappeared or were destroyed . Some demolished buildings to create parking lots .
Then in 1960, another threat arose – a developer wanted to tear down the ca. 1820 Jeremiah Sullivan House, a Federal-style landmark, for a gas station.
John T. Windle, an antique dealer and community activist and a group of local business people raised funds to purchase the home at auction and prevent the demolition. Historic Madison was born.
What started as a drive to save one house became a movement that revitalized the entire city.