It was a lovely, clear Saturday morning when my husband and I took the architectural walking tour offered once a month by Historic Madison Inc. If you’ve ever wanted to know the difference between Federal, Greek Revival and Italianate homes or between Doric and Corinthian columns, this is the tour for you.
The tour is free; no reservations are needed. Just show up at the Broadway Fountain at 10 a.m.on the third Saturday of the month. There will be tours on Sept. 15 and Oct. 20, then no tours through the winter months.
Our guide was Don Wiest, an engaging guy who has lived in Madison only two years but
knows way more about its architecture than I ever will. He reminded us that all of Madison’s downtown is a National Historic Landmark District – one of the largest anywhere.
We walked 13 blocks in two hours – a leisurely pace that allowed lots of stopping and looking at rooflines, window arrangements and support columns. Have you ever thought about the difference between columns? Thanks to Don, I now know that Doric columns look as if they have a Frisbee on top, Corinthian columns have lots of leaves and Ionic columns are topped with scrolls.
I can also recognize a champered doorway and a flounder house. (Unless Don was pulling our leg about the flounder thing…)
We saw more than houses though. We also checked out a couple of 19th century brick warehouses, now owned by Historic Madison Inc., that contain architectural salvage materials that are a resource for local homeowners. We learned most of Madison’s riverfront factories were destroyed in the 1937 flood. The following year, Works Progress Administration (WPA) built Crystal Beach swimming pool on the site of the old Trow Factory.
Our tour wasn’t supposed to include the interiors of any of the buildings, but as our gaggle passed in front of the Lottie Mae B&B at 411 W.First St. (in the Queen Anne style), owner Rick Eblen hailed us. He invited us in to see “the most beautiful inlaid wood floors you’ll ever see.” He was right, and we were in awe.
Madison homeowners certainly have a lot to be proud of.