Mighty Makeover

Shrewsbury-Windle home’s porticos
get much-needed facelift

HMI-owned property
was designed by Francis Costigan

(March 2014) – Over the past few months, workers at the Shrewsbury-Windle House at 307 W. First St. in Madison, Ind., have been busy turning back the hands of time. More than 100 years of accumulated damage is being wiped away in a major repair and restoration project that seeks to return the exterior of the home to its 1840s glory.


Photos courtesy of John Staicer, Historic Madison Inc.

The aging portico columns of the Shrewsbury-Windle House were recently removed and restored.
They were replaced at the home
in late February. HMI members
will have a chance to see the
work at the May “Gala.”

Famed architect Francis Costigan was commissioned to design the home in 1837 by riverboat Capt. Charles Lewis Shrewsbury, the original owner. Shrewsbury was a successful riverboat captain, commission merchant and flour mill owner who settled in Madison and selected a choice location facing the Ohio River. Shrewsbury later served as Madison’s mayor from 1870-72 and died in office.
John and Ann Windle, who founded the preservation group, Historic Madison Inc., purchased the house in 1949 upon moving to Madison from Chicago.
John Windle died in 1987. The home was given to HMI after the July 2009 death of Ann Windle, who lived there almost up to her last day.
John Staicer, HMI’s president and executive director, explains the importance of the property calling it “one of the best preserved examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States.”
Despite the large amount of work being done, great care has been taken to respect the historic integrity of the home, he said. “It’s going to look exactly the same visually.”
Late last fall, exterior pillars were taken down to address water damage and a series of heavy stone steps were taken apart and disassembled. The house was given a new roof, six chimneys were torn down and then relayed using brick from the property itself and from a demolished building so that they matched perfectly. Extensive drainage work was done.
With better weather that arrived in mid-February, workers on Feb. 19 began finishing the repairs and replacing refurbished pillars. Stacier estimates that as of the end of January, 85 percent of the exterior project had been finished.
An HMI press release explains that “rehabilitating this nationally significant architectural gem and re-opening it as a museum and a major events center is the focus of the new Historic Madison Inc. Strategic Plan. The project is being paid for by funds gifted by donors over many years.”


Workers remove the portico columns at the HMI-owned Shrewsbury-Windle home at 307 W. First St.

The photo below shows the
extent of the deterioration
to the base of a column.

A half million dollars was budgeted toward this extensive project. All of the urgent exterior work is expected to be completed by the spring, with new landscaping planned at that time to replace plants that were removed during the construction, Staicer said. He added that he is looking forward to HMI’s “Preservation Gala” that is planned for late May the home. He sees the event as a “mid-term celebration,” since the next step in the process will be to do work on the interior of the home. It is hoped that this interior work can begin in 2016 after additional funding has been raised.
Benjamin J. Ross, a historic preservation specialist with Ratio Architects, terms this “a particularly exciting project” on “an incredible building.” Over the past three years, Ratio worked to prepare a preservation plan for the Shrewsbury-Windle House, inspecting the property and drawing up recommendations for the home.
Ross explains that due to “quite a bit of research and investigation” there were not a lot of surprises on the project. He says that “a few exciting discoveries” were made under the portico and walkway that gave clues to the lives of the workmen on the home and its initial residents. Among the artifacts uncovered included a mineral water bottle from Germany that was a popular drink during the mid-1800s.
Ross explains that the south portico pillars were wet from leakage and had to be placed in a drying room for several weeks before work could begin on them. “In the 1970s, the columns started to rot away at the bottom. The Windles found the closest things they could” to replace the bases, but “those bases were a type of lumber that didn’t hold up.”


Photo by Patti Watson

Workers on
Feb. 21 begin the
task of replacing
the restored portico columns at the Shrewsbury-
Windle home.

In spite of the challenges, the pillars made of “old growth lumber held up very well,” despite facing several years of neglect, says Ross. New bases that better keep with the original design have been crafted for the columns, and by examining historical photographs and taking careful measurements, the resulting work “will look as close to how the house looked in 1849 as possible,” explains Ross. When returned to the home, the wooden columns will no longer be providing structural support for the building but will now be strictly decorative.
Ross said it is typical for preservationists to be faced with repairs from the past when renovating historic buildings. “A lot of times, people mean well but don’t realize they have picked a material that is incompatible” with what they are trying to fix, he says. Sometimes these repairs can actually cause additional damage.
At the Shrewsbury-Windle House, some of the original lime and sand mortar had been replaced with a much harder mortar of Portland Cement. This harder mortar caused brick walls to crack when undergoing the natural slight shifts and settling of any structure.
Ross said he is pleased that the current restorations are “going back with a mortar that is the same mixture as the original.” He says that part of the excitement of restoration is that “we’re always learning more about how to do things – rediscovering technology that has been lost.”
The general contractor for the restoration was Midwest Maintenance Inc. with Jeff Lyman serving as senior project manager and Mark Chapman as project superintendent. Headquartered in Piqua, Ohio,
the company’s past projects include the State Capitol Rotunda Interior Restoration Project in Frankfort, Ky., and The Historic Captain Roland Roberts House in the Bahamas.
Shelley R. Chapman, administrative coordinator with Midwest Maintenance Inc., explains the importance of attending to the repairs now saying, “The problems do not fix themselves. If the roof continued to leak it will damage the sheathing and plaster below. The missing mortar joints not being addressed will allow water to penetrate through, which would cause wood damage and damage to the interior structure. Preservation extends the life of your structure.” Chapman says historic buildings have the power to connect people to the past saying, “We feel strongly that Midwest Maintenance Inc. becomes a part of the communities we serve by offering 35 years of expert services to retain the emotional ties to the people of the community, and to allow future generations to remain tied to their heritage. To see a church where three generations of a family’s children were baptized, or a courthouse where the marriage license for a couple celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary was issued… to see these structures being razed in the name of progress is actually not progress at all. The foundation of our business has a more intrinsic value than just dollars and cents. It’s based more on the idea that a community’s history does not have to pass into oblivion.”

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