Created By: Madison Main Street Program
Madison’s downtown has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. So what does that mean? It means that in 2009, the Secretary of the Interior determined that everyone in the country should come and see the town’s outstanding collection of architecturally significant buildings. The award is given only to the best of the best places in the United States that are deemed to be vital to telling the story of how America developed. Pretty cool, right?
So, now that you know that Madison has a downtown full of nationally significant homes and business, you can better appreciate the fact that the Fountain Building, located on the northwest corner of Broadway and Main is a jewel in that crown. This grand brick home was built in the mid-1800s by a prominent businessman, Captain Nathan Powell.
Nathan Powell was quite the “mover and shaker” of his time. His accomplishments included lucrative river trading, involvement in the pork-packing business, President of the Madison Life, Fire and Marine Insurance Company and President of the National Branch Bank. Even though Powell financed the construction of the Fountain Building, it wasn’t his primary residence. His home was at the other end of the block, at the corner of West Main and Elm Street.
You may recognize Powell’s house. You can almost see the Fountain Building a few doors down the street to the right of the church. Powell died in 1882 but his wife, Mary, and their son, Edward continued to live in this house until 1929. The following year, it was sold and became the Jefferson County Public Library.
Nathan Powell and his wife had six sons and two daughters. Records indicate that at various times their grown children lived in the Fountain Building. The photo of the home was taken around 1930. This black and white picture and the one of Powell’s residence are from the Harry Crawford Lemen Photography Collection. Mr. Lemen was a local realtor and skilled amateur photographer. Luckily he combined his profession with his hobby and left us with a fine record of many of the prominent buildings in Madison.
In 2012, native Madisonians Bob and Tammy Courtney acquired this building. Rooms in the first floor are being used as professional offices and an event space for parties and meetings. The second floor is an apartment guest suite. Under their care, the home’s original elegance is being improved and well maintained.
A newel post sculpture created by New York artist O. L. Warner is of a lovely lady holding a lamp to light the way up the stairs.
Notice a small, private area on the second floor served as a prayer room when the building was the Vail Funeral Home. Inside, you will see any example of what the 2nd floor was like when the Courtney's first began renovations.
The Courtney’s work on this historic home and many others in downtown Madison has not gone unnoticed. On the first floor, you will notice some of the several awards they have received. Their enthusiasm for the Historic District continues.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Loft Tour