(August 2020) – In a follow up to earlier RoundAbout articles about the 5-to-the-5 Vintage Hydros group’s efforts to establish a hydroplane race boat museum in Madison, Ind., the organization is moving closer to achieving that goal.
On July 7, 5-to-the-5 board member Paul Nicholson appeared before the Madison City Council to announce that the group is closer to creating what they are calling the National Boat Racing Heritage Center in Madison. The idea for the center is to celebrate and educate visitors on Madison’s long and storied history in hydroplane racing. He asked the council for advice and support in making the center a reality. Madison Mayor Bob Courtney pledged his support in the effort.
The 20-member, nonprofit organization does not yet have a site for the center but has identified some possible interim sites, according to Nicholson. He told the council that the group had been gifted a vintage hydroplane that was used in the 2005 movie “Madison” and painted to look like the Atlas Van Lines. John Freeman, who lives part time in Florida and upstate New York, donated the U-00 “Lil Buzzard” boat, a V-12 Allison engine, gearbox and trailer to the group in December 2019. The group has picked up the engine and trailer and plans to make the trip to Tavares, Fla., soon to retrieve the boat and gearbox. A restoration of the boat is planned.
Photo by Don Ward
From left, Dave Johnson and Nick Lobdell pose beside the V-12 Allison engine that was gifted to the 5-to-the-5 club by collector John Freeman. They plan to travel to Florida soon to retrieve the boat and gearbox.
Nicholson said the idea for the heritage center is to provide a place to continue to collect artifacts and display them for public viewing. “The sport is aging, and there are lots of people out there with all this stuff that they want to give to us for display in hopes of keeping the memories of the sport alive. We already have a lot of things, and we are running out of space to store it.”
Group member and co-founder Dave Johnson owns a shop full of artifacts and boat hulls. He said the group could have up to four Unlimited race boats to display when they are ready to open. But he cautioned, “This project is not just about Unlimiteds. It’s about all kinds of boats – steamboats, inboards, outboards, you name it.”
Johnson said he has known Freeman since 1999 when he worked on Freeman’s boat during the filming of the movie. Johnson even spent two weeks in Long Beach, Calif., during filming to work on the boat, which his friend, the late Ernie King of Alexandria Bay, N.Y., drove in the movie. One driver, Tommy Tucker Foltz, died while driving the boat in 1970 in San Diego during a photo shoot gone wrong.
Last year, the group was offered the chance to purchase the original 1971 Miss Madison race boat that won the famed Gold Cup, but the price of $150,000 was too steep for the organization. Boat owner Randy Mueller is currently restoring the dilapidated boat at the Hydroplane & Race Boat Museum in Kent, Wash. “Who knows? Maybe some day,” Johnson said of a possible future purchase.
Meantime, the group is preparing for its fifth annual Madison Vintage Thunder on Sept. 19-20 on the Ohio River in Madison. The two-day event features up to 40 vintage hydroplanes making exhibition runs on the river and this year will offer free admission.
“We should charge at least something, but because times are tough right now with the pandemic, we decided to make it free for the public,” Johnson said.
This year’s event will be held in memory of Jean Johnson, Dave’s wife who died suddenly on June 11 at age 70. The 5-to-the-5 organization is established as a nonprofit under the auspices of Historic Hoosier Hills. The term “5-to-the-5” is a hydroplane racing term that means there is five minutes before the five-minute starting gun is fired as the boats scramble for position prior to a race.
For more information on the festival, visit www.5tothe5.com.
Lanier Mansion changes its daily tour times
Visitors to Madison, Ind., who want to tour the state-owned Lanier Mansion are finding some changes from normal operations there. In the past, the mansion offered guided tours on the hour. But with recent staff changes at the Indiana State Museum and with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting operations, tours are being given now at specific times, according to Tawana Thomas, executive director at VisitMadison Inc.
Thomas told the VisitMadison Inc. Board of Directors at its July 20 meeting that the mansion has set specific tour times each day: 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Each tour allows for only 10 people maximum due to COVID-19 safety measures.
All tours begin at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center at 601 W. First St. Tour prices are $11 adults, $9 seniors and $6 for youths ages 3-17. Children under 3 are free. Reservations for tours can be made online at www.IndianaMuseum.org. The website also lists several annual events held at the mansion, including free evening concerts on the lawn scheduled for Aug. 22 and Sept. 12. The August concert will feature the band Nobody’s Bizzness from 7-9 p.m. The September concert will feature the band Small Time Napoleon from 6-8 p.m.
Members of the Friends of Lanier are free to tour the mansion as well as admission to all 12 statewide locations of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. Members also receive 10 percent discount in the gift shop and free admission to more than 300 museum and science centers worldwide.
Thomas said that with the short staff on hand at the mansion her tourism office staff has been helping to clean the mansion in between each tour – wiping down the bannister and other areas for instance.
Photo by Don Ward
The state-owned Lanier Mansion has moved its tours to four specific tour times per day because of the COVID-19. Tours are also limited to 10 people each.
“Kudos to the VisitMadison staff for jumping in and helping out at Lanier,” Thomas said. “I’m very proud of them for doing this.”
The Lanier Mansion is an 1840s-era Greek Revival home of the late Indiana financier J.F.D. Lanier. Lanier was a former clerk of the Indiana General Assembly and businessman who worked in banking and finance.
The mansion was built by famed architect Francis Costigan. The home features a magnificent spiral staircase, as well as Corinthian columns on the south portico, Ionic columns separating the double parlors on the first floor and even a curved door near the stairs.
Outside on the south lawn, the mansion features formal gardens that include plants and flowers popular in the second half of the 19th century.
For more information about the Lanier Mansion, call (812) 265-3526.
Effort to bring preservation conference back to Madison in 2024
Link Ludington, president of the Cornerstone Society in Madison, Ind., has had preliminary discussions with VisitMadison Inc. about submitting Madison as a potential host for the 2024 Preserving Historic Places Conference, according to Tawana Thomas, VisitMadison’s executive director. Thomas made the announcement at the July 20 VisitMadison board meeting.
Preserving Historic Places changes locations every year in order to showcase Indiana’s historic communities. Three primary partners – Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indiana Landmarks and Indiana University – stage the annual conference. The last time Madison played host to the conference was 2004.
The preservation-oriented Cornerstone Society is an affiliate organization of Indiana Landmarks giving Ludington a connection to the Indianapolis-based group. “I thought that since it would be 20 years since Madison last hosted the conference that this would be a good time to have it back,” said Ludington, who was recently invited to join the Indiana Landmarks’ advisory council. ‘So I am on a fact-finding mission to see what would be involved in trying to have the conference come back. Indiana Landmarks likes to move the conference around the state each year to make it accessible to as many people as possible.”
During tours, workshops, and educational and field sessions, conference participants explore 21st century solutions for historic building materials, get tips on building research, bone up on new archaeological methodologies and delve into their love/hate relationship with the bulldozer.
Ludington told Thomas that he is encouraged about bringing the conference to Madison in light of the scheduled opening in spring 2021 of the new Fairfield Inn at the former Eagle Cotton Mill that is currently being developed on the Madison riverfront. The Riverboat Inn near the Milton-Madison Bridge also could be used to house out of town guests.
This year’s conference to be held in South Bend, Ind. was rescheduled for Sept. 28 – Oct. 1, 2021.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at info@RoundAbout.bz.
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