Madison’s riverfront today.
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Madison, Indiana

 Main Street Commercial Buildings

Main Street, c.1920

Main Street, c.1920
Courtesy of the Jefferson County Historical Society Research Library

Madison's historic Main Street Commercial Buildings extend approximately 15 blocks east to west along Main Street. Commercial buildings stand on the east side of town near Walnut Street and as far west as just past Cragmont Street. They also line the side streets within a block or so of Main Street. Development began in the area in 1811, but no buildings from that first era of Madison history have survived. The city passed a local ordinance in 1830 that required all new buildings in certain parts of the downtown to be constructed of masonry. This not only reduced the threat of fire, but resulted in more substantial commercial architecture with a better chance of surviving into the future. Intended to stop the spread of fire, this early law allowed much of Madison’s early commercial architecture to survive until today. Shoppers can enjoy and appreciate the scale and appeal of this impressive group of historic buildings.

The Masonic Building is one of the only Main Street buildings designed in the Second Empire style

The Masonic Building
is one of the only
Main Street buildings
designed in the
Second Empire style
National Park Service

Dating to 1836, 407 West Main Street is one of the oldest remaining commercial buildings on Main Street. Its Federal style is representative of most of the architecture constructed in Madison at that time. A building of approximately the same age once stood next door to 407 West Main Street. Next to that, at the corner of Broadway and Main Streets, the Broadway Hotel and Tavern began operations in 1834. During the early 20th century the business moved south a block and reopened at 313 Broadway Street, where it still operates today.

Three very interesting later additions to Madison’s commercial downtown are in the 100 block of East Main Street. At 101 East Main is a building unlike any other in Madison; a Beaux Arts design detailed with elaborate shields on either side of the façade and a central, second-story pediment over a window. To the east of this building is a stately Italianate block. During the prosperous 1870s, many Madisonians constructed new buildings in the Italianate style of the day, while others remodeled their older, Federal-style buildings with Italianate details, like window hoods or brackets. Originally constructed in the Italianate style, the next building to the east, 105 East Main, suffered a fire and many alterations. Today, the building is known as the Ohio Theater and is a typical reflection of a mid-20th century movie theater with its classic marquee lighting the street at night.

Perhaps the most notable commercial architecture on Main Street is the Masonic Building at 217-219 East Main Street. Constructed from 1871 to 1872, it is one of the few examples of Second Empire style in Madison. John Temperly, a second-generation Madison architect, designed this building with its Mansard roof, fine stone carving around the storefront windows, and artful central gable.

Other historic buildings that make up the fabric of Madison’s Main Street include the Jefferson County Courthouse, the Sheriff’s Residence and Jail, and the Fair Play Fire House. These are described in more detail in their individual travel itinerary entries under Civic Madison.

Most of the commercial buildings in historic downtown Madison contribute to the significance of the Madison Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Main Street today

Main Street today
National Park Service

Plan your visit

Most of the buildings on Main Street are businesses open to the public during regular business hours. Click here for the Madison Historic District National Historic Landmark file: text.

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