Preservation, Road Trips

Strolling through Madison

Madison, Indiana, is a preservationist’s dream town. A whopping 133 blocks of its downtown is a Historic District and a National Historic Landmark.

On Main St.
Main Street

Founded in 1810, the town competed with Louisville and Cincinnati as Ohio River port cities. It grew rapidly into the railroad age of the mid-1800s, but railroads leading to those other two cities performed better than the one leading to Madison. Indeed, Madison’s railroad failed in 1862. Even though its line ended up becoming a part of the vast Pennsylvania Railroad system, the die was cast. After the Civil War, Madison’s growth stalled.

Broadway Hotel

Madison’s antebellum loss is our modern gain as it largely froze the town in time. You’ll find all the major architectural styles from the nineteenth, and even some of the twentieth, centuries in downtown Madison.

Ohio Theater
Hinkle Hamburgers

Residences surround the downtown commercial area, and most of the homes are simply stunning.

House in Madison
Madison street
Dr. Hutchings

The river is just a few minutes’ walk from anywhere in Madison’s historic district. Goods are not received at any port here anymore — you’re far more likely to see powerboats racing here. It’s been happening in Madison for at least 100 years. An annual powerboat race, now known as the Madison Regatta, has been held annually since 1929 over the Independence Day weekend.

Bench on the Ohio

4 thoughts on “Strolling through Madison

  1. Dan Cluley says:

    My understanding is that Madison was a victim of geography. That scenic hill you showed the other week meant that the rail line down to the river ended up being one of the steepest grades in the US. That made it very difficult to operate, and they just couldn’t compete.

    • The railroad grade down into Madison is famously steep to be sure. The town probably competed okay as a riverport but as rail became more important I’m sure that grade hurt them.

  2. Mike Eckman says:

    Thanks for posting this. I love historic districts and buildings like this. I will have to make it to this town someday with plenty of cameras in tow! :)

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