Downtown Madison, The Fair Play Fire Company No. 1, Benches and a walking path along the river - Photos Courtesy of Katrina Falk via Flickr's Creative Commons.
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Madison, Indiana

Lanier Mansion

Lanier Mansion

Lanier Mansion
Courtesy of the Madison Indiana Facebook Page

Recognized as a masterpiece of the Greek Revival style, this elegant house overlooking the Ohio River was built for banker James Franklin Doughty Lanier in 1843 and 1844. At the time Lanier lived in the mansion, there were iron foundries to the north and east, the railroad station to the west, and Lanier’s own wharf and warehouses to the south-all long gone. The house today has an unobstructed view of the Ohio River.

Local architect Francis Costigan designed the house, which would become known as his finest work. The home’s cubic form features Greek Revival characteristics such as the south portico supported by colossal Corinthian columns; a large, dentilled entablature broken by round, frieze windows; decorative window crowns and cresting. The interior is equally ornamented, and is most noted for its spiral staircase that gracefully occupies the east wall of the entry hall. Curved doors, a feature used elsewhere by Costigan, are found within the house as well. As in many of his other works, Costigan drew directly from the pattern books of New York architect Minard Lafever in designing the house.

Lanier Mansion, 1870.

Lanier Mansion, 1870.
From the collection of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

Lanier was one of the most powerful and influential people in Indiana during the first half of the 19th century because of the role he played in promoting the State’s banking and railroad industries. He lived in Madison until 1851, when he moved to New York City to establish a new banking house there. He maintained ties to Indiana, and during the Civil War years, loaned the State over one million dollars. These funds allowed Governor Oliver P. Morton to continue contributing to the war effort, despite the Indiana legislature’s failure to appropriate funds. A significant number of legislators either sympathized with the South or wished for Indiana to take a neutral stance.

The Lanier Mansion remained in the Lanier family until 1917, when it was donated to the Jefferson County Historical Society. Shortly after, in 1925, the home was transferred to the State, and it has been operated as a State Historic Site ever since.

The Lanier Mansion contributes to the historic significance of the Madison Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark; it was also designated as an individual National Historic Landmark on April 19, 1994.

Plan your visit

The Lanier Mansion, a property of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, is located at 601 W. First St. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places nomination file for Lanier Mansion: text and photos. Click here for the Madison Historic District National Historic Landmark nomination: text. Lanier Mansion is open to the public. For more information, visit the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites website or call 812-265-3526.

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