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Architectural historians consider the Francis Costigan House a masterpiece of nineteenth century design. The house is situated on a narrow city lot measuring only 22 feet in width at 408 West Third Street in the Madison, Indiana Historic District. Costigan built this house in 1850 as his private residence.
The brick two-story house is Greek Revival in style and has a portico with two fluted columns capped with Corinthian capitals. The portico is heavily adorned and includes a sliding pocket door entry. The ceiling of the portico is particularly interesting. It is deeply coffered and heavily decorated. The interior of the house has a magnificent drawing room thirty feet long with bow end, twin fireplaces, and a fine, high ceiling with deeply depressed panels, heavily ornamented with egg-and-dart moldings.
The house shows Costigan’s characteristically fine woodwork, including both curved and sliding doors and an interesting stepladder staircase with a push gate at the top. This creative use of space reflects Costigan’s skill and ingenuity as an architect to create such an elegant house in a limited space.
Born in Washington D.C. in 1810, Costigan spent his formative years in Baltimore. In 1835 when he was 25 years old, the Baltimore directory lists him as a “Carpenter and Builder.” He was in Madison by 1837. He was the architect and builder of the residences of James F. D. Lanier ( built between 1840-1844) and the Captain Charles Shrewsbury (built between 1846-1849) now both are National Historic Landmark Properties. Costigan spent almost 15 years in Madison; he enjoyed much success as an architect and builder. Other homes as well as St. Michael the Archangel Church are attributed to Costigan, as well as the Madison Hotel, which was razed in 1949.) Costigan left Madison and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where he designed and built several commercial and residential buildings. None survive. He died in Indianapolis on April 18, 1865. He is buried in Crown Hill cemetery.
According to Roger Kennedy, former Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, “The Francis Costigan House is a prime candidate for the finest surviving Greek Revival townhouse in America; miracles of space planning on a tiny lot.”
The Museum is open to the public mid-April through October. Limited hours. The property is one of 15 historic properties owned and operated by Historic Madison, Inc. a non-profit organization dedicated to education, promotion, and assistance in preservation and restoration of historic resources which protect our heritage and enhance the quality of life in Madison, Indiana. For additional information contact Historic Madison, Inc.