Madison, Indiana Cleans Up After Ike


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Hurricane Ike hit Madison, Ind., on Sept. 14. High winds uprooted an 80-year-old tree, which fell on the 1818 Jeremiah Sullivan House, a historic house museum.

Credit: Historic Madison, Inc.

On Sept. 14, the remnants of Hurricane Ike, which devastated Galveston, Tex., struck Madison, Ind., dubbed "the prettiest small town in the Midwest." This week, after the windstorm downed trees and smashed windows, the town is trying to recapture that title.

"We have a huge historic district, and there was a lot of damage," says John Staicer, executive director of Historic Madison, Inc. Seven of his organization's 16 properties were damaged, Staicer says, especially the 1818 Federal-style Jeremiah Sullivan House.

"We've got a big, gaping hole in the roof, and we've lost several thousand bricks as well as plaster and artifacts," Staicer says. "During the storm, I kept getting phone calls about additional damage to our properties. It was just one thing after another."

Historic Madison will reopen two of its museums this week, Staicer says, including the Schroeder Saddletree Factory and Residence, which won a National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2004.

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Interior damage to the top floor of the 1818 Jeremiah Sullivan House in Madison, Ind.

Credit: Historic Madison, Inc.

Spanning 133 blocks, the Madison Historic District includes 1,600 Federal, Greek revival, and Italianate buildings constructed between 1817 to 1939. In April 2006, the area was designated a National Historic Landmark. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Madison, an Ohio River town with 12,000 residents, a Dozen Distinctive Destination in 2001 because of its largesse of intact historic buildings.

"When the town was growing, people built well," Stacier says. "In the latter part of the 19th century, the economic conditions were such that there wasn't a lot of pressure to tear down the old buildings, so they were remodeled. … There have been people preserving this architecture for many, many years."

The storm hit other nearby areas, says Greg Sekula of Historic Landmarks of Indiana. "Other towns along the Ohio River also experienced some damage," he says, like New Albany, whose 19th-century church's steeple had to be dismantled. "Reports of damage are still coming in."

Watch footage of Ike's aftermath in Madison, Indiana 

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