History, Heritage, and Haints
Start your visit with a tour of the historic district. Our friendly, knowledgeable step-on guide will point out places of interest, great restaurants, shopping, and more. Next visit one of our historic sites-- we have 8 unique sites open for tours! Select from a 19th century saddletree factory (the only one of its kind in the US), the home of a riverboat captain, a 19th century doctor’s office and hospital, or Madison’s “crown jewel” just to name a few. If spirits are your thing, you might enjoy “Night Spirits” at the Lanier Mansion. Costumed actors portraying spirits dramatically recount true stories of murder and mayhem from our nation’s past.
North vs. South: Our Underground Railroad Story
Imagine crossing the mighty Ohio, in the cover of darkness, the last obstacle on your journey to freedom. In the early 1800s the Ohio River was the dividing line between the southern states promoting slavery and the free northern states. Since no bridges spanned the river at this time, crossing options were limited to boat or swimming or walking across; either when the river was frozen or at its shallowest. Many slaves seeking freedom made their way through this area in their quest for liberty. While most continued their journey northward, some settled in this area and the community of Georgetown was born. Learn about Jefferson County’s rich UGRR history from local reenactors. Madison has more UGRR sites recognized by the National Park Service than any place in the country.
Stained Glass, Portals to Our Past
Stained glass windows dating to the mid-1840s to 1989 grace the windows of Madison’s beautiful churches. View these prime examples of both old and new mosaic glasswork. Choose 3-4 of the eleven different churches included on this tour. The earliest panes at Christ Episcopal Church contain some of the oldest American made stained glass windows still in the original setting. Get a guide for your group or strike out on your own with our self-guided walking tour pamphlet. If you chose this option windows can only be viewed from the exterior.
Hotties & Pumpers
Many people are surprised to learn that a community the size of Madison is served by an all-volunteer fire department. Organized fire protection in Madison can be traced back to 1821. Groups can tour any of the 4 fire stations in the historic district with former and current firefighters as your guides. The oldest fire company in Indiana is Fairplay Fire Co #1., established in 1841. Washington Fire Co. #2 is the oldest active fire station in the US, built for that purpose. It is one of the only remaining Greek Revival Firehouses in the US. Walnut St. Fire Co. #4 has been located on the corner of Walnut and Third for over 50 years, their original location is now a privately owned fire museum filled with fire apparatus and equipment. The building has been completely restored and replicates inner city fire halls from the 1800s with a brick exterior and cast iron front. The owner is happy to share his love of firefighting with groups.