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. The building and land remained in the hands of the Second Presbyterian Church until 1923 at which time they were conveyed to Mr. Frank P. Vail. The building was used as the Vail Memorial Chapel until the year 1929 when the property was purchased by the St. Paul ‘s Lutheran Church which retained title until purchased by Historic Madison, Inc. in 1961.
The auditorium, comprising almost the entire main floor, rests on a high foundation and is approached by eleven steps at the street entrance. The focal point of the interior is the massive OPUS 217, 1867 Johnson “tracker” organ on the North wall of the auditorium. The organ was built by William A. Johnson of Westfield, Massachusetts in 1867 and has a fascinating history. Names of individuals, prominent in Madison history, are recorded for posterity on wooden pipes and framing members of the instrument. The organ was moved from a small west room at the rear of the auditorium to the present location in 1883. All records indicate the instrument was in service with little interruption, from April 1867 until 1961. The organ was 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 open to the public for cultural presentations and special events or by appointment. 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. 500 West Street, Madison, Indiana 812-265-2967. firstname.lastname@example.org