John T. Windle Memorial Auditorium
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Built in 1835, the John T. Windle Memorial Auditorium is said to be the oldest existing public building in the city and one of the most notable examples of Greek Revival Architecture in the Midwest.
This early example of Greek Revival architecture has many interesting details including a recessed entrance and decorative cornice with two massive Doric-style, slightly tapered and heavily fluted columns. They are flanked on either side by three matched pilasters extending to the entablature, giving visual rhythm to the façade. The exterior walls are covered with stucco and troweled smooth.
The Trustees of the Second Presbyterian Church purchased the land from Madison founder John Paul and Jonathan Lyon and commissioned architect Edwin J. Peck to design and build the structure in 1835 at a cost of about $8,000.00. In 1923, the building was conveyed to Mr. Frank P. Vail and used as the Vail Memorial Chapel until 1929 when the property was purchased by the St. Paul ‘s Lutheran Church which retained title until purchased in 1961 by Historic Madison, Inc.
The auditorium (main floor), rests on a high foundation approached by eleven steps at the street entrance. The focal point of the interior is the massive OPUS 217, 1867 Johnson “tracker” organ situated on the north wall. The organ, built by William A. Johnson of Westfield, Massachusetts in 1867 has a fascinating history. For example, names of individuals, prominent in Madison history, are recorded for posterity on wooden pipes and framing members of the instrument. The instrument was in service from April 1867 until 1961 and restored in 1985. From an historical point of view, the instrument is totally intact with all-original parts, components, fixtures, and accessories. Daniel Bickel, organ builder and restorer, considers William A. Johnson’s Opus 217 to be in mint condition—truly “ a rare find”.
The property is available for rent to the public for cultural presentations and special events or can be viewed by appointment. For more information on rentals or tours by appointment, contact the HMI office at 812-265-2967.