Fire Hits 1855 Courthouse in Madison, Ind.

An hour before the May 20 fire broke out, workers were putting the final touches on the Jefferson County Courthouse?s exterior renovation, in preparation for Madison's bicentennial celebration on June 6- 14.

Credit: Historic Madison Inc.

On Wednesday evening in Madison, Ind., John Stacier, executive director of Historic Madison, Inc., walked past the 154-year-old county courthouse to admire its restoration in progress.

An hour later, Stacier returned to find the Jefferson County Courthouse's gold dome engulfed in flames. No one was injured in the fire, which destroyed county records, destroyed the building's dome and roof but left its facade intact.

Madison's fire department has not yet determined the cause of the May 20 fire.

Tonight, as part of the city's annual Old Court Days fundraising event, Historic Madison will present a preservation award to the Jefferson County commissioners for their role in building a sympathetic addition to the historic jail—and for the restoration of the now-charred courthouse.

Jefferson County courthouse before the May 20 fire

Credit: Historic Madison, Inc.

"Everything is still on," Stacier says. "It's kind of a difficult time because the courthouse looks like hell. It's going to be an emotional evening, but hopefully an uplifting one."

Old Court Days have taken place near the courthouse since the 1970s; this year, the venders' booths and other attractions will be located a block away. Jefferson County commissioners, who initiated the current restoration, vow to rebuild the courthouse and have already formed a commission to oversee the project. The Southern Indiana town has rebounded before—after Hurricane Ike, for example.

"The county commissioners will do a fantastic job restoring that building," Stacier says. "They've got a lot to work with.


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