Walking the Madison incline

As I left the Jefferson Country Historical Society History Center, a volunteer started talking to me about the famous Madison incline. The railroad was a walking path now. We bantered about the length of the climb to the top—it was after all an incredibly hot and humid late summer day in Southern Indiana and I wanted to know what I might be getting myself into by following the former tracks.

I didn’t get a clear idea of how long the hike might be but as long as it was not hours I was game. I wandered through neighborhoods to where the walking path was and then turned north.

The fabled walking path is a brief area by the Ohio River at the end of a beautiful river walk. The walking path did not take a turn to the north. I discovered that the railroad tracks still existed but now in a dilapidated state. No matter. I could still follow them. Off I went.

Slowly the tracks ascended. In the hot weather it was a bit of exertion. With the increase in ascent came an increase in weeds and in the decrepitude of the tracks. After two and a half decades of not being used, the ground under the tracks had shifted and the gravel between the ties washed away. In parts I could not just stroll but had to pick my way gingerly over gaping holes in the ground. Woods grew up on either side of the tracks.

After a half an hour or so I reached the canyon where the railroad tracks were dug through limestone cliffs. A sign of warning gave me pause. Beware of falling rocks. Hmmmm. At least with roadways, a warning sign usually doesn’t go up unless something bad has already occurred. I continued for a few minutes, glancing at the cliffs around me. Then I looked at the rubble and the size of the boulders lying by the tracks.

Judging by the lack of a true path and the state of weeds, I could only surmise that not many people make it up the incline. I did so want to see the top, to be able to tell myself that I conquered the same incline that the Reuben Wells did. But the warning sign, the steep cliffs on either side, and evidence of rocks from the cliffs by the tracks convinced me otherwise.

Sadly I turned to retrace my steps, in some ways feeling that the incline had conquered me rather than me conquering the incline. I’ll never see what lay on the other side of the incline.

Jefferson County Historical Society History Center

Madison, Indiana was doubly blessed with the Ohio River and the nascent railroad. Traffic still flows on the Ohio River (though probably not to the extent of Madison’s heydays.) The railroad that ran through Madison is long gone—its tracks either turned into a walking trail or left to decay—but the heritage remains.

As the county seat, Madison is home to a county museum that showcases its history and all the industries that rose and fell here. A modern building housing the main collection sits behind an octagonal historic building, which was the old train depot.

The museum’s collection starts with the beginning of Native American settlement in the area and meanders chronologically through industry, notable events, and important people.

The area that became Indiana was first part of the Northwest Territory, which was formed by an act of Congress in 1787. In 1800, part of the Northwest Territory became the Indiana Territory. In 1805, the indigenous people of the area, mostly Shawnee, ceded their right to the land. And in 1816, the state of Indiana was born.

As I wandered around the center, I learned about the important technologies, stores, and industries in 19th and 20th century Madison and environs: horse and buggies, drug stores, grocery stores, mills, and iron foundries. A small corner of the museum is dedicated to William McKendree Snyder (1849-1930), the local artist that a docent at the Dr. William Hutchings’ Office and Museum was shocked to learn that I didn’t know. Other exhibits cover schools, including Hanover College, farms, shipyards, bridges, and streetcars (which ended in Madison in 1929). A common theme through most of the exhibits is transportation or transportation infrastructure.

A rather large exhibit is devoted to the Jefferson Proving Grounds, an inhabited area that the government commandeered. The area was cleared of people and from 1941 to 1995 was dedicated solely to the testing of weapons. How sad, I thought, that this area could never be returned to human habitation. The danger of chemicals and unexploded munitions is too great, though flora and fauna has reclaimed the area.

Other exhibits walk visitors through various early technologies. One shows the progression of materials used for roads, from corduroy (tree trunks) to plank to gravel and macadam (crushed stones and tar). (I cannot begin to imagine traveling on a road made of tree trunks.)

Another extensive exhibit illustrates different 19th century antecedents to modern photography: carte de visite (calling cards with a photo), daguerro-type photographs (1839-late 1850s), ambro-type photographs (1850s-1860), and tin-type photographs (1860s-1900). (I don’t believe I have ever seen the different types together in a single collection before.)

To top it off are stereoscopes (1840s-1930s), devices that show 3D presentation of images. (I seemed to encounter them in one historical home after another that I visited this year.) The stereoscope, I learned, debuted in 1851 at the Great Exhibition (aka the Crystal Palace Exhibition) in London, where Queen Victoria first encountered it.

Another non-transportation related exhibit features a local boy/national hero: Sam Woodfill. He fought in three wars (Philippine-American War, WWI, WWII), and received the Medal of Honor for his bravery in WWI. Ultimately, he just wanted to be left alone by the publicity circus.

After perusing the History Center, I meandered across the lawn to the small octagonal structure—the 1895 train depot. The train in Madison originally ran parallel to the Ohio River but jogged up a block to the depot before heading back down to run parallel to the river and then quickly taking a 90 degree turn north up the steep Madison incline.

Railroads in Madison actually began in the 1830s (but apparently a depot for passengers was not needed until 1895?). James Lanier (of the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site) made some of his fortune investing in the Madison-Indianapolis line. After regular passenger service ended in 1931, the depot endured various metamorphoses.

In 1934, the depot was used as a Community Center. During the 1937 flood, the building was almost entirely underwater. I glanced down the street at the Lanier Mansion, which is at about the same latitude as the depot. The docent at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site mentioned that during the 1937 flood, only the basement flooded. Hmmm. Seems strange that the depot would completely flood but the Lanier Mansion wouldn’t.

In 1961, the Wilson brothers bought the depot and used it as an electrical supplies warehouse (!). In 1986, the Historical Society gained possession of it and set about restoring it back to its inaugural year of 1895. In 1995, after nine years of work, restoration was complete.

The depot is neat just for its octagonal shape, but it is also a mini-museum. Exhibit cases show artifacts from the time period such as serving plates used on the train (back when trains had dining cars). One room is staged as a train station/telegraph office. And there are lots of pictures and explanations about train-related and Madison train-related details.

An exhibit about time explains the role of the railroads in creating a standard time in the US. How can you schedule train arrivals and departures if the areas that the train travels through do not agree on a common time? In 1883, the railroad tried to rectify that by implementing time zones. On November 18, 1883—The Day of Two Noons—railroad stations reset their clocks to a standard time based on five time zones: Intercolonial, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. In 1918, the US government caught up with the railroads with the Standard Time Act that, as the name implies, standardized time across the country.

Another key exhibit covers the Madison incline. The railroad tracks head north up a 5.89 percent grade incline, the steepest in the country. Originally horses (!) pulled trains up the incline. Around 1848, cogwheel trains with special engines relieved the horses of this task. In 1868, cogwheel trains were replaced with the Reuben Wells, a heavy locomotive that was powerful enough to haul trains up the incline.

The Reuben Wells, named for its maker, was only used on the incline. It was specially designed with a boiler that tilted forward so that the water level in the boiler remained flat on the incline. The Reuben Wells ran from 1868 to 1905 (or 1898 by other accounts), was retired, stored in Pennsylvania rail yards, and taken out for special events. In 1976, the Reuben Wells received a permanent home in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. (Unfortunately, you cannot tour the inside of the locomotive to see the tilted boiler.)

The last train on the incline ran in 1992. For the most part, the train tracks running parallel to the river are gone. In 2014, some of the tracks were converted into walking trails. The railroad, like many throughout Indiana, is just a memory now. The Jefferson County Historical Society History Center offers as unique glimpse into its past.

Dr. William Hutchings’ Office and Museum

During my visit to Dr. William Hutchings’ Office and Museum, I felt a bit discombobulated.

The tour was a mishmash of bits that I had to cobble together. I arrived when a tour was in progress and tried to follow along. Then when that tour ended, I started back at the beginning, got partially through it when more people showed up, and the tour guide started all over again.

Even in spite of this, the explanation of Dr. Hutchings’ life and the buildings was a bit non-linear. My confidence in the information took a dive when the tour guide mentioned that the organization and she had told people misinformation for years. (For example, they relayed that the room we were standing in was an examination room and the floor was painted red so that bloodstains wouldn’t be so noticeable. In fact, after they reviewed documentation about the building and Dr. Hutchings’ practice, they discovered that the good doctor made house visits. He never saw patients in this room. The room was in fact his dispensary.)

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

I was visiting Dr. Hutchings’ office in Madison, Indiana, down by the Ohio River. This Greek Revival building was constructed between 1838 and 1848 by Michael Bright, who used it as his law office. (Side note: It turns out that after Michael Bright came to Madison, he read law with Judge Sullivan. Yeah, that Judge Sullivan—Jeremiah Sullivan. Early Indiana was a small world.)

Histories show that Michael Bright retired and moved to Indianapolis in 1850. (Another side note: Michael Bright’s brother was Jesse Bright, a Southern sympathizer, a landowner and slave owner in Kentucky, and an Indiana state senator. The good senator was expelled for addressing Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States in a letter where he suggested that the South should buy guns from Indiana gun manufacturers (!). After his expulsion, Thomas A. Hendricks, whom we met (sort of) at the Jeremiah Sullivan House, replaced him as senator in 1863. Early Indiana was a very small world.)

At some point, the building became the law office of Judge John. R. Cravens. (Cravens married a daughter of J.F.D. Lanier. Early Indiana was a very, very small world.)

But back to Dr. Hutchings.

In 1873, the doctor started practicing in Madison. In 1883, he bought this building that Michael Bright built, using the bottom two rooms as an office and dispensary. The front room—the office— has a small coal-burning stove. The back room—the dispensary—has an herb cabinet (which looks suspiciously like a card catalog to those who remember such things) and floor-to-ceiling shelves housing all manner of bottles still containing medicines.

The doctor was apparently very interested in electricity and electrotheraphy. (As a student, he saw Asiatic cholera up close during the 1849 Asiatic Cholera Epidemic along the Kentucky River. In his thesis at the Indiana Central Medical College, he theorized that Asiatic cholera was caused by electrical phenomena in the atmosphere.)

The dispensary room holds several medical devices for electrotheraphy. One is an electro-magnetic machine. I had a vague uneasiness about this. (Before dying of cancer in 2008, a friend was approached by someone who claimed that an electro-magnetic machine could cure him. Many years ago, the FDA banned electro-magnetic machines, and advocates of them were tried for fraud. I never expected to be looking at a 19th century ancestor of this machine.)

The upstairs contains two small boarding rooms. One of the rooms houses a painting by William McKendree Snyder. Apparently the doctor acquired several paintings by Snyder. (Snyder paid the doctor for his services in paintings.) The docent seemed amazed that I did not know of William Snyder—a famous Madison painter. (Seeing how I enjoy art and have encountered the works of many famous Hoosier artists, I was surprised that I had not encountered what was apparently so famous a Hoosier artist. Perhaps he is not so famous, or perhaps my familiarity with Hoosier art is not so wide. Probably the latter.)

Dr. Hutchings practiced medicine from his office in Madison until his death in 1903. (Side note: He is buried in Fairmount, Indiana, home and burial place of James Dean.) After his death in 1903, his daughter packed up everything in the office—equipment, bottles of medicine, and patient notes—and closed the office. The office became a time capsule, opened only in 1969 when the doctor’s granddaughter gave the building and its contents to Historic Madison, Inc.

Dr. Hutchings and his family (11 children—only 8 of which survived to adulthood) lived in a house next to the office and dispensary. This house was built in 1840. The Hutchings family owned it from 1882 to circa 1965. The house was torn down by the King’s Daughter’s Hospital between 1969 and 1972 to build, of all things, a parking lot (!).

At some point the hospital got rid of the parking lot and moved a historic building built circa 1840—around the same time period as the house that the Hutchings inhabited—to the same spot as the original Hutchings house. In 1999, the hospital gave the land and house to the Historic Madison, Inc. to serve as an extended museum for Dr. Hutchings.

The museum contains exhibits about different medical devices and displays information about Civil War era medicine, illness, and lives lost. One of the rooms also displays artifacts about his daughter Lida (1878-1968), who was an avid photographer and worked among the Sioux (Lakota) in the 1890s on the Lakota Sioux Reservation. (The destruction of Sioux culture is on display; Sioux children were given to white families to be raised as white.) Lida’s cameras, glass negatives, and postcards are on display.

In one respect, Dr. Hutchings’ Office and Museum was the complete opposite of the Jeremiah Sullivan House. The latter is the original Sullivan house and includes a few belongings. But Sullivan was not a hoarder and the house passed through different hands before reaching Historic Madison, Inc. In contrast, Dr. Hutchings kept everything, his daughter carefully stored its contents, and his granddaughter bequeathed it to Historic Madison, Inc. I have a feeling that Historic Madison, Inc. will be discovering new things from Dr. Hutchings’ archives for decades to come.

Schroeder Saddletree Factory

A saddletree factory. It is exactly what it sounds like, though I never really thought about how saddles were made. Or heard the word saddletree before.

Saddles were built upon wooden saddletrees or frames. Some companies made the saddletrees. Some companies took the saddletrees and finished the product by covering it with leather. (Kind of like how some early car companies made the undercarriage for cars and some companies made the cars that use the undercarriage.)

The Ben Schroeder Saddletree Factory was kind of the undercarriage maker for the saddle industry. And what an industry it was. When Schroeder started his factory in 1878, there were 12 saddletree factories in Madison, Indiana (the so-called saddletree capital). Schroeder’s factory ended up making 250 (!) different types of saddletrees.

The saddletrees are composed of wood that runs on either side of a horse’s spine (to distribute the rider’s weight on the horse, not its spine), a pommel (or not), and the cantle (the back). All of the bits could vary slightly: the length of the wooden sides, the size of the pommel, the height of the cantle. Some could be for men or women (the dreaded side saddle)—or lightweight versions for jockeys.

The factory designed them, cut and shaped the wood, added cloth or rawhide covers, dried them, and then shipped them to factories that would finish the saddles.

John Benedict “Ben” Schroeder was born in Prussia in 1848 and immigrated to the US in 1864. He started his factory in Madison in 1878. Nothing is known about his life before Madison. (Did he grow up in the saddletree industry? Was he an apprentice at a factory when he arrived in the US?)

Schroeder slowly gobbled up competitors over the years. In the 1910s, with the rise of cars, demand started to decline. And then the Great Depression hit. But Schroeder was a savvy businessman. He switched to markets in Cuba and Latin America, where there was still a strong demand for saddles. And he branched out into stirrups and hames (the collars of horse or oxen harnesses), and then other industries, such as clothespins, lawn furniture, and gloves.

He was also extremely frugal. He designed his own machinery or bought it used, and reused everything, such as the cardboard from cereal boxes, which he used to create patterns for the saddletrees.

Schroeder’s factory was handed down to his children. Six of his eight children made it to adulthood. Out of those six, four stayed in Madison to run the business. These four never married but devoted themselves to the business.

The business employed apprentices and journeymen. Although the factory was still operating into the 1970s, I do not know how many employees (apprentices or journeymen) were used in the later decades.

At its height, the employees were making 30 to 45 saddletrees per week. Altogether, from 1878 to 1972, they made 300,000 to 500,000 saddletrees.

The company came to an abrupt end in 1972 with the sudden death of the last surviving Schroeder child, Joe. One January day, Joe was working in the woodworking shop and came back to the office for something. He slipped on the ice, hit his head, and died.

Everything on the property—including the various workshops—was left as is until the city acquired the factory in 1992, twenty years after Joe’s death. Even Joe’s lunchbox that he had taken with him to the woodshop remained where it was left in 1972. As one visitor described it, the factory was like Pompeii without the lava (or the bodies, I would add).

With grants from the DOT and Lilly, the city started to restore the factory to its height in the 1940s. People from Ball State University came to inventory everything on the site, which took two years. (After seeing all the items in the workshops, I could believe that it took that long.) The restoration cost $1.2 million. The workshops look like they were just left as is with half finished products all around. The factory really is a time capsule.

The grounds consist of the house (where the family lived), a sawmill, a carpenter shop, an assembly shop, a blacksmith shop, and a drying room.

The living room is the only room of the house restored to its original use. The room includes a coal fireplace and piano. (I noticed a stereoscope, which I have been seeing everywhere in the last year or two.) The ceiling is covered in wallpaper and the gaslights have a pump for compression. (Something I hadn’t seen before for gaslights and didn’t quite understand.) The front door is a Jenny Lind door. (This was the second reference to Jenny Lind that I had heard during my trip to Madison. Clearly this PT Barnum entertainer was quite the thing in Madison…she apparently came to sing for the city for free.)

The house was flooded during the 1904 flood. (Madison is on the banks or the Ohio River.) In what points to his dogged tenacity, Schroeder painstakingly took apart the building brick by brick, raised the foundation three feet, and then put all the bricks back. I can’t comprehend doing that.

In the back of the property is the sawmill (built in 1934) with one of those large saws that made you wonder how anyone from that time period kept all of their limbs. (The docent pointed out a guy in one photo of early apprentices and journeymen at the factory who was missing a hand. Mishap in the sawmill?)

The carpenter and assembly shops look like people just finished working in them yesterday. Bits and pieces fill the workshops. Throughout the carpenter and assembly shops are radiators that the Schroeders made themselves. (Remember their frugal nature? Make what you need if you can, or buy it used.)

The carpenter shop is full of machinery to form and polish different pieces of wood—for different bits of the saddletree, clothespins, and furniture. I was surprised to learn that the clothespins required at least three different machines—one to carve the wood, another to make the notch in the clothespins, and a third one to polish them. In one corner stood the huge boiler, fed in part with wood chips from making the clothespins.

While in the assembly shop, the docent warned me to not get too close to a large bucket, which was yellow on the inside. The bucket was used to hold the cyanide-laced paint used on the rawhide covers for the saddletrees.

On one workbench in the assembly shop was a glove (sans thumb) model that fabric was fitted on for the production of gloves. I exclaimed that the length of the fingers on the model indicated that the gloves were for men. (The docent found my observation less than interesting.)

Although the saddletrees were wooden, some of them were reinforced with metal, such as the lightweight, even childlike saddletrees of jockeys. Pommels were made of metal and affixed in notches in the saddletree. Hence the need for the blacksmith shop.

One thing in particular struck me about the blacksmith shop. Not only did the shop have a furnace, which I would have thought kept it toasty even in the winter. But it also had a freestanding stove AND more of those homemade radiators!

The drying room is what you would imagine. A trap door in the floor leads to a vat with chemicals for treating the rawhide that covered some saddletrees. After a dip, the saddletrees were hung up to dry, and for lack of a better word, for the wood to cure.

Touring the Schroeder Saddletree Factory was an eye-opening experience. I had no idea what was involved in the making of saddles, that an industry revolved around the “undercarriage” of the saddle, and that such an industry could survive into the 1970s. This factory that survived against all odds claims to be the only saddletree museum in the country.

Lanier Mansion State Historic Site

I passed this house and grounds a few times before I was able to take a tour. After seeing the Francis Costigan House, I was even more eager to see the Lanier Mansion, which Costigan designed. The house did not disappoint. It has been beautifully restored.

James Lanier was born in North Carolina in 1800. In 1817, his father brought the family to Madison and opened a dry goods store. (They apparently lived in what is now known as the Schofield House.) After studying law in Pennsylvania, James returned to Madison and worked as a legal clerk when the Indiana General Assembly was in session. (Nearby Corydon served as the state capital from 1816 to 1825.)

James later turned to banking and finance, becoming the president of the State Bank in Madison. He invested in the first railroad in Indiana. He was successful enough to hire Francis Costigan to build a great mansion on the Ohio River. The mansion, which took three and a half years to complete, was finished in 1844. However, James did not enjoy it for very long.

In 1849, he formed an investment bank, Winslow & Lanier, which was based in New York City. In 1851, he moved to New York City, leaving behind his grown son Alexander to care for the Lanier Mansion. Alexander was the force behind the creation of the formal gardens between the house and the river.

The house is imposing but as a Greek Revival house, it is not over the top and gaudy like some Victorian era houses. The foyer is large and runs the length of the house. A twin to the front door opens to the river-facing side of the house. (Because the river was a major transportation avenue, visitors often showed up on the side of the house facing the fiver.)

Reminiscent of his own house (built later in 1850), Costigan used 10-foot doors with the 14-foot ceiling (vs. a 12-foot ceiling on the second floor and a 6.4-foot ceiling on the third floor). As a nod to the curved walls and doors in his own future home, a curved door, perfectly hung under the stairs, separates the foyer from the dining room.

On one side of the first floor are the parlors: formal in front, informal behind it. Large double pocket doors separate the two rooms. Like Chief Richardville’s house, the door frames in this house sport “ears”. (Another visitor pointed this out to the docent just a few days prior.) Molding at the ceiling is in alternating shapes of eggs and arrows—birth and death—symbols that seemed more Egyptian than Greek to me. Mike, the docent, pointed out the symmetry that was de rigueur in Greek Revival house—and opened every fake door. (Fake doors abound to provide symmetry to real doors in the rooms.)

Strangely, only the windows on the west side of the house—which included the parlors—have storm shutters on the outside. (Later during a stroll of the grounds, I noticed some on the southern windows of the kitchen.) The windows also have inside shutters, which could be folded and tucked away into a pocket in the walls, a Costigan feature that the docent pointed out.

Wild patterned wallpaper and carpeting reflect the style of the times. The formal parlor includes an Italianate marble fireplace. The informal parlor is a music room with pianoforte, harp, and harmonium. The harp came from Paris in the 1790s (!) and the harmonium arrived a few days prior from the Indiana State Museum. (The museum runs the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site and typically outfits historic sites with period appropriate pieces.)

The Laniers had 8 kids total—five girls and three boys. A portrait of the youngest boy, James, hangs in the informal parlor. He unfortunately did not make it to adulthood. In the portrait, James is a small child, dressed in a smock. Apparently, in the days of buttons rather than zippers, young boys wore dresses. Easier and faster to disrobe for the urgent calls of nature. (Ah! Now it makes sense why clothes for young James Whitcomb Riley at his childhood home included dresses—or smocks.)

On the other side of the house, looking out at the river, is Lanier’s study/library. The bookcase full of books is original. Next to the fireplace is an early, pre-Barcalounger chair that moves into a reclining position with an attached wooden tray to hold books or papers.

The room to the front of the house, across the foyer from the formal parlor, is the dining room. The dining table was set for the dessert course of a meal. Above the table hangs an oil chandelier—an argon chandelier. A container in the middle of the chandelier contained the oil that flowed to the lights thanks to gravity. (The house did move to gas lighting after the city received a gas charter in 1850.) In a corner stands a cellarette, a zinc-lined wine cellar. I looked at the small squat piece of wooden furniture with claw feet. I suspected that I had seen these before without realizing what they were.

On this side of the house, with an entrance between the dining room and study, is the breakfast room with stairs to the servant quarters and a kitchen behind it. Both rooms are in the process of being restored. The fireplace in the kitchen seemed incredibly small. But strangely no kitchen in the basement or a summer kitchen exists.

According to the docent, the Laniers did not have slaves; they used indentured servants—Maggie and David. (Similar to the Jeremiah Sullivan House.) I always wonder about claims like this. Technically slavery was illegal in Indiana but things were a bit loosey-goosey early on. Slavery. Indentured servitude. Tomato. Tomaato.

Apparently though the Laniers had a contract for David, a twelve-year-old African-American boy whose mother signed a contract for his indentured servitude. According to the contract, David was to be taught to read, write, and do basic math. When his servitude came to an end at the age of 21, he was to be release with a suit of clothing. (I wonder what happened to David.)

Before we ascended the beautiful circular staircase (Costigan really was a master architect), Mike had me stand so I could look up at the three flights of stairs. At the top were skylights covered by a cupola. On cloudy days, Mike said, the area around your feet would be bright and sunny. (The day of my visit was sunny so, strangely, I was not bathed in bright light.)

The second floor consists of bedrooms, a small study, and a nursery. The bedrooms seemed big, even though they were filled with large furniture. May and Louisa shared a front bedroom. Mike pointed out the top drawers in the dresser that overhung the lower drawers. Quilts were stored in these overbig drawers. (Huh. That’s why the first drawer is larger on some antique dressers! Interesting.)

Charles, one of the sons, occupied the other front bedroom. In 1851, when Lanier moved to New York to run his investment bank, he took his wife and young son Charles. After Lanier died in 1881, Charles took over the business but was not quite the businessman that his father was. No fear though. He had a good friend to help him—J.P. Morgan.

In between the two front bedrooms is a small study with an original Lanier desk. Odd to think of this space being used as a study.

Alexander, the elder son who was 30 and a graduate from Yale, took over care of the house when his father left for New York. He slept in the room on the riverside, across from May’s and Louisa’s room. Alex didn’t marry until he was 60. He was in love with Stella from his youth. Stella, for unknown reasons, had married someone else. When she became free later in life, the two of them wed.

The last bedroom is the master bedroom. In between it and Alexander’s bedroom, directly opposite the small study, is a nursery. Clearly, the Laniers expected more children. In 1846, just two years after the house was finished, his wife Elizabeth died. In 1848, James married again. It doesn’t seem that the nursery was used.

The third floor consists of rooms for the servants and a playroom for the children, complete with a large 1840s rocking horse. At the top of the stairs is another double curved door. Alexander converted a small closet between the playroom and the servants’ room into a water closet. All of the windows on the third floor are oculus windows that swing open. (They reminded me of the beautiful oculus window in the Samuel Plato house in Marion.)

So what happened after Lanier left the house in 1851 and moved to New York with his wife and teenage son Charles? Lanier in many ways financed the Civil War for the state of Indiana. The legislature was packed with Democrat Copperheads who opposed the war and sided with the South. They blocked all financing of soldiers for the war effort. Governor Morton turned to Lanier, who loaned the state $400,000 and later another $640,000. By 1870, five years after the war ended, Indiana had repaid Lanier with interest.

Lanier died in 1881. Alexander, who occupied the house since 1851, died in 1895, and Stella, his wife and life-long love, died in 1900. The deed passed to her daughters (from a previous marriage). By the early 1900s, Charles, the thirteen-year-old who traveled to New York with his father, managed to buy back the house for $5,600 (!). In 1925, the house was donated to the Indiana State Museum.

As with other Indiana State Museum sites, the Lanier Mansion was a delight to tour. The tour only lasted an hour. Like many tours, I was the sole attendee, which has its benefits. I wonder though what it would have been like to tour with the group of women I encountered at the Jeremiah Sullivan House. (They were quite inquisitive and liked to discuss different items that they encountered—they had toured the Lanier Mansion the previous day and highly recommended it.)