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Madison Historic District Board of Review


The Madison Historic District Board of Review governs the Historic District ordinance which aims to protect the oldest and most historic part of the city of Madison.

The district encompasses the entire downtown area from the river bluffs on the north, the Ohio River on the south and city limits on the east and west.

The board meets the fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at Madison City Hall, 101 W. Main St., Madison, Ind.

For more information, contact the Madison Plan Commission at (812) 265-8324.

Preparing for a historic district board meeting

Going before a historic district architectural review board and explaining your remodeling or restoration project can be a mildly daunting experience, but it does not have to be a horrible experience.

Most boards are empowered by city ordinance to review the exterior appearance of a structure. It is often the change of appearance that triggers the need to come before the board. Thus, the board wants to be able to visualize the project by reading your application and visiting the property.

Thus, before you go to the board try to do the following…

1) Plan ahead. Many boards meet only once a month and applications are often due 2-3 weeks before the meeting to allow for legal advertising. Many boards also require certified letters be sent to neighbors and you will need the receipts prior to your application being considered.

2) Have a plan, but don’t commit to a contract or purchase materials until you are approved. Know what you want to do before applying to the board as you will be held to your application once approved. However, during the meeting things can change. You might find the board does not want to approve your replacement windows unless they are the exact size of the original windows. If you have already purchased the windows, you could find yourself in a bind.

3) Take photos of your property as it exists. Take both overall photos and close up photos of areas that will be changed or that can demonstrate structural problems with the house. For example, if you are wanting to install new windows, take photos showing conditions of the existing windows. Many boards require photos as part of your application.

4) Make drawings of how the structure will look when you will be done with the project. Again, many boards require drawings. These drawings do not have to be technically perfect by any standard, but should demonstrate the jist of your planned work.

5) Write a detailed description of that materials you will be using. Tip: Investigate staying true to the existing materials and sizes. Failing that, try to reproduce the look of the original materials as much as possible. For example, with replacement windows, keep the exact same size if at all possible with the replacements. If vinyl replacements are the only option, purchase them with exterior window dividers that mimic the wood dividers.

What do they want from me?

Think about that wonderful grandfather’s clock that has been passed through your family for generations (or pretend this is the case). When it comes into your possession and it needs work, do you take out the old clock works and replace them with digital workings? No, because that would irrevocably damage the value and history of the clock. Historic review commissions see historic structures are no different.

Try to stick with the original materials where at all possible or try to revert to the original materials. Try taking off the aluminum siding and seeing if the wood underneath is salvagable before trying to put on vinyl siding. Try fixing wood windows and insulating the space around the windows before buying vinyl replacements. While historic materials do take more maintenance, you will come out ahead in property values and possible even energy costs. For example, properly maintained wood windows with storms provide better insulation than modern double paned windows alone. (Contact the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana for details).


The historic district review boards can clarify the requirements for their particular application process and answer questions about their district’s regulations. Also, there are numerous resources and organizations across the state, such as Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana that are willing to help.

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