601 West First Street, Madison, Indiana
Built 1844, for James F.D. Lanier (1800-1881) and his wife Elizabeth Gardner (1798-1846). In Tallmadge's The Story of Architecture in America, he wrote: "Not in the east alone were there imposing mansions in the Greek style. In Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River, is the home of James F. D. Lanier.. a noble building with a tetrastyle Doric Colonnade and the unusual dignity of a great round cupola". Lanier's Greek-Revival mansion took four years to build at a cost of $40,000 and was the masterpiece of the architect-builder, Francis Costigan (1810-1865), who imbedded his name in the newel post.
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The mansion played host to several large society gatherings until Lanier left the mansion in 1851 to pursue his banking career in New York. He deeded the property for a token $1 to his eldest son, Alexander Chalmers Lanier II (1820-1895). The younger Lanier involved himself in local businesses but became best known as an amateur horticulturist. He maintained the spectacular gardens and built the greenhouses at the mansion, giving much of the produce from estate to charity. In 1893, he married his childhood sweetheart, Stella Godman (1825-1899), and they both lived there until their deaths.
The house reverted back to Alexander's siblings until 1917, when it was relinquished by his youngest brother, Charles D. Lanier, the banker and close friend of J.P. Morgan. He donated the mansion to the Jefferson County Historical Society to be known as the Lanier Memorial Museum. In 1925, with the family's permission, the Society gave control of the house to the State of Indiana, who continue to run it today as an historic house museum.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 20/11/2018 and last updated on 21/06/2021.
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