Madison’s Golden Age Starts Today

I’ve dabbled around in local history lately, reading some publications from our Historical Society and even the James Lanier biography. All things considered, now is the best time in history to have lived in Madison, Indiana.

Often you get the impression that the 1850-1870’s were the golden age of Madison. In those years, the city was a major political and economic force in the American West. We had Michigan Road, the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad, and the series of successful banks. This town was a regional economic powerhouse with steamboats, factories, and massive agricultural output.

Then there was the slow decline only broken by the post WWII baby boom. That’s when we built new schools, merged with North Madison, and our boys won the State Basketball Championship. Of course, our place among Indiana’s leading cities was never recovered. The long steady slide since the 1970’s is even projected to continue for the next 40 years.

The Broadway Fountain in Madison, Indiana.

Any honest comparison with historic Madison will recognize that contemporary Madison is doing just fine. The quality of life today far outshines those faded legends.

Educational opportunity continue to improve with Hanover College, Ivy Tech, and online schooling.

We have the Clifty Falls State Park, Heritage Trail, Big Oaks, and hundreds of acres of city parks. The air is getting cleaner, the river is less polluted, old buildings are made new.

The Internet has truly abolished space and time, giving us equal access to the world. This humble blog post you’re reading can be accessed everywhere around the globe.

King’s Daughers’ provides world-class healthcare and will become a regional hospital at its new location.

Hundreds of events, both large and small, bring this community together. Children can enjoy high quality education, unlimited activities, and a place to call home.

In short, we have the best of all worlds. Our community is safe, hospitable, and affords an incredible quality of life. We lack nothing and have no peers worthy of our envy.

City and county leaders are taking a serious look at how they promote economic development. The Imagine Madison project has offered a host of new ideas and sparked excitement for the future. Main Street Madison carries the torch for a bright future downtown.

It’s easy to find fault and bicker over a vain desire for growth. Many of our members are struggling to find honest work and a living wage. Let’s just not forget that not all growth leads to prosperity. Things can get better and we should all work to build an even stronger community. Let’s remember that no matter our struggles, this is the best time to have ever lived in Madison, Indiana.

We must choose to make Madison a better place. It starts with our family, community, and doing good for others.

What will you decide?

Historic Downtown Madison


  1. Madison has made a ton of mis-steps in the last 20 year that has led to it’s decline. First, the historic district needs to be restricted to the main downtown blocks. Let new building be built in the rest of downtown, but require that they are constructed to look like a certain period. Other cities have done this with great success. Second, voting down casino gambling. I’m no fan of a casino, but look at how Switzerland County benefited from Madison’s lack of foresight. Third, building a new two-lane bridge in the same place as the old one. A four-lane bridge running straight from 421, crossing the river and shooting up the hill in KY would have benefited industry while not bypassing downtown. Again, look at the highway connecting Markland Dam to I-71.

    Madison’s property values are way too high. Who wants to buy a dump when they can get twice as nice and bigger house elsewhere?

    Lack or recreation for younger people. Trails are nice, but there are plenty in Clifty Falls. Find out what younger people are involved in and build it (disc golf, mountain biking trails, etc.) Look at what is working elsewhere in the country and get out of this Indiana mentality of having blinders on.

    If Madison wants to be a retirement community, they are doing a great job at it!

  2. Brian Cole says:

    Downtown Madison, while beautiful, is dying. Old buildings deteriorating. No one wanting to invest in them because they have their hands tied by historical Madison. Downtown shops wanting people to shop but, they are closed when people are off of work. No real selection to choose from. You have to go to the hilltop to shop for groceries unless you want bad generics, bad customer service, and paying extra for a bag from Ruler. Downtown does have some good restaurants but, that isn’t enough to keep people downtown.

  3. luv downtown madison always have, i have an uncle that has traveled the world & he has said two of his favorite places are nova scotia, clean and bright and madison, In!

  4. Mary Jane and I brought the Village Peddler in the top photo back to life several years ago; it was a total mess and a disgrace to Main Street.

    We now have a new project just down the street. The old Bears Jewelry building We hope to finish sometime this year.

  5. James Buckwalter says:

    It is worth mentioning that the Madison Consolidated School District is in a financial crisis resulting from state budget cuts, and that with the new, higher student-teacher ratios our children will not be receiving the educations they deserve.

    Madison Indiana is unable to invest in the children that are its future.

    • C Miller says:

      However, there are now more school choices than ever before in Madison. Several private/Christian schools have opened in the last few years, as well as the new charter school in Canaan. With the new school-choice vouchers available through the state, there is hardly any excuse for keeping kids in an under-funded public school system. I’m just saying at least there are options, people aren’t necessarily stuck with what the public school is offering, as they used to be.

      • James Buckwalter says:

        C Miller, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am not aware that new schools have opened in Madison in recent years. Pope and Shawe are private, and require that families pay tuition—something many Madisonians cannot afford.

        We don’t need “excuses” for keeping our kids in an under-funded school system. We need to be politically active to find ways to get the schools re-funded. A failure to invest in our children is a failure to invest in our community, and Madison is becoming a less attractive place to live for parents who value education.

    • Tony K. says:

      Agreed. The community must do more for its children and that means putting real money into public education. Some of best people are teachers and they deserve our respect.

      I think the growth in private schooling, even before the vouchers, shows many families are willing to invest more.

  6. C Miller says:

    Great blog, Tony! Great pics, also! I agree with everything except the part about “King’s Daughters’ provides world-class healthcare.” Madison is a great place to live and raise kids, which is why I stay. Right now, the only thing missing in Madison, IN is JOBS. I love this town!

    • Tony K. says:

      Thanks for the reading! It’s hard to evaluate the hospital. I’m down there and the Louisville hospitals with people from our church, there are pros and cons. They do have many good people at KDH, maybe not all.

      The job issue is very tough. I like the diversified approach recommended in the Blue Ribbon report, but our kids might be grown before the impact is felt.