Take a peek inside this 1800s Greek Revival-style home designed by a famous architect

Francis Costigan — Madison, Indiana’s most well-known architect — designed multiple buildings that hold historic significance today. These include the Lanier Mansion, the Shrewsbury-Windle House, and Costigan’s home on West Third Street in downtown Madison.

Though Costigan’s Greek Revival home isn’t as grand as some of his other works, the two-bedroom house features clear examples of innovative design choices made by an American architect in the 1800s.

The house is now owned by Historic Madison Foundation, Inc., and is open for tours twice weekly.

The front entryway of the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

“This was the last building Costigan designed while he was still a resident in Madison,” John Staicer, Historic Madison Foundation Inc. president and executive director, told The Courier Journal. “He was living in Indianapolis by 1852.”

Staicer adds that while it has been confirmed that Costigan designed the home, no one knows if Costigan or his family ever lived there.

“We don’t know a lot of the history of Costigan as a person.”

Produced for the parlor

Chandelier in the main parlor in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

What the Historic Madison Foundation does know is that Costigan crafted the two-story, 1,800-square-foot abode to highlight its jaw-dropping parlor.

Upon entering the home through the sliding pocket door, visitors step into what Staicer describes as one of the smallest front hallways of any house in the U.S. The tight space — which sits between the staircase and a huge curved door — fits maybe three to four people. Once that door opens, the waiting parties are welcomed into a grand room with 11-and-a-half-foot ceilings, large windows, and two fireplaces.

Staicer explains that because the home is only 22-and-a-half feet wide, Costigan had to carefully create each aspect of the space to ensure visitors would experience that “wow” moment upon entering.

The main parlor in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

“The whole room is balanced to create a kind of symmetrical feel to it,” Staicer said, adding that humans naturally gravitate toward symmetry, balance, and harmony. “Costigan used architectural devices to create a very calming, soothing, balanced room that also functions well.”

The parlor is outfitted with 1850s antique furniture and set up as if it were used as two separate spaces, which Staicer says it undoubtedly was. The area also features several original elements, including the wood mantles that Costigan designed, metal inserts and fenders, and a chandelier.

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“It’s been fully restored,” Staicer said. “It was originally a gas chandelier … but it’s been restored and electrified.”

The main parlor in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

All the doorknobs, lock sets, and keys are original, too. Staicer adds that while the Foundation worked hard to restore as much as possible and set the home up as it might have looked when people lived there, the exceptional architecture and unexpected design features are what make it stand out.

Storage and a staircase

The front entryway of the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

The house boasts three large, built-in closets, which was highly unusual in the 1800s. The downstairs closet features storage shelves and space for wooden racks to hang cloaks and hats. It’s so spacious that it has since been renovated into a restroom.

“It was a very handy spot, and it’s built-in under the staircase,” Staicer said, explaining that the home features what is referred to as a stepladder staircase. It goes up from the front door, hits a landing, and then goes down toward the back part of the house.

At the top of the staircase, there is a built-in wooden gate, not unlike the baby gates used by modern-day parents. “We think it was part of the original design of the house,” Staicer said. “The Costigans had four kids, (so) you can imagine with a staircase like this, kids running up and down the stairs — a gate at the top at least slows them down.”

Twin mirrored stairways lead to the second floor in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

Costigan’s detail-oriented architectural features are showcased in and around the staircase as well; the bottom steps on both sides curve with the design of the surrounding walls.

Period pieces

Dining room in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

Though the identity of the home’s residents might always remain a mystery, all the furniture and accessories are arranged in a way that would have made sense with Costigan’s family living there.

The parlor leads to the dining room, and upstairs, there are two bedrooms as well as a space that Costigan likely planned to use as a workspace.

“We found evidence of two gas lights on the wall, and why else would you have lights on the wall in that particular position?” Staicer said of fixtures that seem intentionally placed to light a desk or work table of some sort. “So, we’ve got this set up as an architect’s studio with a mid-19th-century drawing table and tools, some drawings, and 19th-century clothing.”

The main bedroom on the second floor in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

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Also on display are several moldings from the house and other Costigan properties. Like the rest of the home, they provide a glimpse into yesteryear and Costigan’s cutting-edge talent.

“What’s significant about the … house is its architecture and its design, which is really unusual,” Staicer said. “Architects and historians of architecture throughout the United States recognize this as a … significant property.”

The main bedroom on the second floor in the Francis Costigan House in Madison, Indiana. May 16, 2024

The Francis Costigan house is open for tours at 10:30 a.m. every Monday and Friday. Admission is free for Historic Madison Foundation, Inc. members and $10 for non-members. Group tours can be arranged by calling 812-265-2967, or emailing [email protected]. Visit historicmadisoninc.com for more information.

Know a house that would make a great Home of the Week? Email writer Lennie Omalza at [email protected] or Lifestyle Editor Kathryn Gregory at [email protected].

nuts & bolts

Owner: Historic Madison Foundation, Inc.

Home: This is a two-bed, 1,800-square-foot, Greek Revival-style house museum built in 1850.

Distinctive elements: Portico entryway; unique sliding pocket front door; stepladder staircase; curved parlor door; original gas light chandelier; custom-made period reproduction wallpapers and carpets throughout; 1850s antique furnishings throughout.

Applause! Applause! Architect Francis Costigan and the following restoration experts: John Galvin, Charles Requet II & Charles Requet III, Kevin Hereford, Marva Hereford, David Cart, H. Scott Davis, Thistle Hill Weavers, Adelphi Paper Hangings, and Gfroerer Rug Company.

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