Historic Churches Walking Tour in Madison, Indiana

Map of Churches Tour
Map of Historic Churches Tour

This is a map of an historic churches walking tour in Madison, Indiana. The material for this tour was researched and organized by Jan Vetrhus of the Cornerstone Society, Inc.

The Tour
Picture of Madison Presbyterian Church

(1) Madison Presbyterian Church, 202 Broadway, Greek Revival with Baroque-style bell tower. This building was erected by the First Presbyterians in 1846 – 1847 after an earlier church on West and Presbyterian burned. In 1921, after an 88-year separation, the 1st and 2nd Presbyterians reunited and chose this building to be called Madison Presbyterian. It is still an active church.

Picture of St. Annes Academy

(2) St. Anne’s Academy,  Sisters of Providence, 420 Broadway. This frame building is the site of the first Catholic mass in Madison in 1817. In 1844 is became St. Anne’s Academy which was run by the Sisters of Providence.

Picture of Roberts M E Church

(3) Roberts Methodist Episcopal Chapel, 210 West Third Street.  The Roberts M. E. Chapel was built in 1852 by the Third Street Methodists– a congregation formed in 1844 by a group who split off from the Wesley Chapel over how much choir music and how much congregational signing should be permitted. The Methodists reunited in 1872, and this building was sold to the Catholics who used it briefly as a school for boys.

Picture of Second Presbyterian Church

(4) 2nd Presbyterian Church, 101 East Third Street, Greek Revival. In 1833 Pastor Johnson and 63 members petitioned to split the church and organize the 2nd Presbyterian Church. They built this Greek Revival building in 1835 just one block south of the 1st Presbyterian building. When the Presbyterians reunited in 1921 this building became the Vail Funeral Home for 5 years. It was sold to the Lutherans who formed St. Paul’s in 1927. It is now owned by Historic Madison, Inc.

Picture of Adas Israel Synagogue

(5) Adas Israel Synagogue, 113 East Third Street. Madison had an active Jewish community with the earliest records dating from 1849. In 1855 a synagogue was established and in 1868 this building was purchased from the Radical Methodists to be used as a synagogue. The building remained a synagogue until 1923.

(6) Christ Episcopal Church, 506 Mulberry Street, Gothic Revival. Completed in 1850 this is the second oldest Episcopal Church building in Indiana. The east windows are notable examples of American stained glass, created in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in 1850. It is still an active church.

Picture of Grace M E Church

(7) Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, 217 East Third Street. This church was organized in 1844 to serve German-speaking Methodists. It remained separate until they joined Trinity United Methodist in 1925. Today the building is once again an active church– Faith Covenant.

Picture of A M E Church

(8) African Methodist Episcopal Church, 309 East Fifth Street, Greek Revival. Constructed in 1850 this served as the AME Church until 1926. It was the Pilgrim Holiness Church from 1926 until 1943. Around the corner is a little shotgun house that was the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was formed in 1844 by the free blacks who split off from the Wesley Chapel.

Picture of St. Michael the Archangel Church

(9) St. Michael the Archangel Church, 421 East Third Street.  The parish was founded in 1817 by Father Michael Edgar Shawe, and this stone church was built between 1837 and 1839. It was known as the Irish church and was an active parish through the 1980’s. The Sisters of Providence operated the attached school.

Picture of St. John's United Church of Christ

(10) St. John’s United Church of Christ, Greek Revival, 406 East Street.  This building was constructed in 1850 as St. John’s Methodist Church. When the congregation joined with others to form Trinity Methodist in 1872 the building was sold to the Congregational Church, that had been organized in 1840 by German immigrants of Evangelical, Lutheran and Reformed backgrounds. It is still an active UCC church.

Picture of St. Mary's Church

(11) St. Mary’s Church, 413 East Second Street. This church was founded in 1850 for German speaking Catholics who did not feel at home at St. Michael’s. The church had no furnace or stove and no empty pews at high mass! German was used exclusively in services. It was enlarged to its present size in 1860, and in 1876 a red brick school was built next door run by the Sisters of Charity. The church is now Prince of Peace.

Picture of Wesley Chapel

(12) Wesley Chapel, 222 West Main Street. This church, built in 1831, was located on the site of what is now the Main Street parking lot. After the church united with Trinity Methodist in 1881 the building became the Madison Opera House. It was razed in the 1970’s.

Picture of Ebenezer Methodist Church

(13) Ebenezer Methodist Church, 409 Poplar Street. The congregation was organized in 1866 as Bryant’s Chapel. It moved to Poplar Street in 1878. They were able to build the church with the help of the Church Extension Society for Black Methodists. The church closed in 2002.

Picture of Trinity Methodist Churc

(14) Trinity Methodist Church, 409 Broadway, Gothic Revival. In 1869 the  trustees of Robert’s Chapel proposed to the trustees of St. John’s Methodist that they be united in a new church to be known as Trinity Methodist. A new building was one of the terms of the union. The first worship service was held at Trinity in November of 1873 and the church was dedicated in 1874. It is still an active church.

Picture of Broadway Second Baptist Church

(15) Broadway Second Baptist Church, 615 Broadway. Black congregants separated from First Baptist in 1848, and Second Baptist was founded in 1849.They first worshipped on the south side of 5th Street between Mulberry and West Streets. In 1879 they built this building on Broadway near the Broadway Colored School. It is still an active church.

Picture of First Baptist Church

(16) First Baptist Church, 416 Vine Street, Greek Revival. Organized as Crooked Creek Baptist in 1807, the congregation became First Baptist in 1829 and built a new church in 1831. From 1853 to 1860 construction took place on the building that you see today.  It is still an active church.

Picture of First Christian Church

(17) First Christian Church, 516 West Main Street. Founded in 1836 by the Disciples of Christ, a brick church was built on this site in 1864. That church was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve 1899. The congregation rebuilt a new church in 1901, but that one suffered a major fire on Christmas Eve 1998. Once again it was rebuilt, incorporating the original brick walls but rotating the sanctuary 90 degrees. New, stained glass windows reflecting local scenes were commissioned for the “new” church. It is still an active church.


Madison was founded in 1809 by John Paul, a Revolutionary War veteran and entrepreneur. With a location on the Ohio River midway between Cincinnati and Louisville and with the main migration route into the state being through Kentucky, Madison was the largest city in Indiana in the first part of the 19th century.

America as a whole and towns like Madison were very religious in the 1800’s. The average person received 6 pieces of mail per year but heard 12 to 15 sermons, rarely less than an hour long. There were 35 churches to every one banking facility. Today there are 4 banks to each church; at that time there were no national newspapers, TV or internet. The churches were national, powerful and influential. Madison’s churches were places for learning, socializing and organizing as well as worshipping.

New immigrants brought their own religions and often worshipped in their native languages. Madison was settled by English, Scots, Irish, Germans and free Blacks.

1st: The Baptists were the first to organize in Jefferson County. Elder Jesse Vawter, a pioneer preacher arrived here in 1805 and two years later founded Crooked Creek Baptist Church just north of the top of Michigan Road hill. By 1829 Madison was booming so they moved downtown to become First Baptist. They bought the lot on the corner of Vine and Third from John Paul’s heirs for $50 and built a new church in 1831. In 1853 they razed the small building and started the Greek Revival church that was finished in 1860. This is the oldest, continuous Baptist Church in the state. In the 1960’s when there was a migration to the hilltop, First Baptist voted to stay downtown. In 1965 the new addition was dedicated.

Black congregants separated from First Baptist in 1848 and the Rev. Chapman Harris and black businessman John Carter, both leaders in the underground railroad, founded Second Baptist in 1849.

2nd: The Methodists were the second church to organize in Jefferson County. Circuit Rider, Peter Cartwright, had begun meeting in homes as early as 1804 and the church was formally organized in 1815. What is now the Main Street parking lot is the site of what once was the grandest Methodist Church, the Wesley Chapel, which was built in 1831. After it united with Trinity Methodist in 1881, the building became the Madison Opera House. It was there that actress Irene Dunn performed in her senior class play and her 1916 class had their baccalaureate service.

In 1844 free Blacks split from the Wesley Chapel because they objected to being forced to sit in the balcony and then under the stairs when the choir was added. They formed the AME Church.

3rd: The Presbyterians were the third church to organize in Madison in Nov. 1815. In 1833 the Rev. Johnson, pastor at First Presbyterian, and 63 members that included Victor King, a Hanover College Trustee, Moody Park, future mayor of Madison, and Judge Jeremiah Sullivan petitioned to split the church and organize the Second Presbyterian Church. The split was old school versus new school, an issue that affected churches throughout the country.

In 1827 Hanover College, the oldest private college in the state, was founded by local Presbyterians.

4th: The Catholics were the fourth church to organize in Madison, with the first mass being held in 1817. In 1993 the Catholic parishes of St. Michael’s, St. Patrick’s (on the hilltop), St. Anthony’s (in China) and St. Mary’s
were consolidated into Prince of Peace and parishioners now worship at St. Mary’s. St. Anthony’s has become a retreat for priests, and St. Patrick’s is the chapel for the Catholic schools.

And More:  The congregation of Christ Episcopal Church was founded in 1835 by the Rev. Jackson Kemper, a missionary bishop for the Northwest Territory, who became the first bishop of Indiana three years later.

Emilie Todd Helm, half sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, was organist at Christ Episcopal from 1866 to 1874.    Other prominent members of the church include Mrs. Ellen Shrewsbury, Dr. Hutchings and Michael Garber, owner of the Madison Courier. J.F.D. Lanier was on the first vestry.

In 1925 the Grace M. E. Church building became a museum devoted to the art of sculptor George Grey Bernard, son of the 2nd Presbyterian minister and a pupil of Rodin. George was the most famous sculptor in America, but the people of Madison found his work scandalous, and the museum closed. His works were moved to Kankakee, IL, where he was born.

There are four tracker organs in Madison that are still playable. Two are in active churches (First Baptist installed in 1900 and St. John’s United installed in 1879) and two are in inactive churches (St. Michael’s installed in 1897 and 2nd Presbyterian installed in 1867). Along with the fact that these organs range in age from 117 to 150 years old, what makes them unique is that they are mechanical action. In other words, the connection between the keys and the valves that control the air to the pipes is physical, usually a long rod. (In modern organs the connection between the keys and the pipes is an electrical wire.) Madison is justifiably proud of having four such historic organs.