James F.D. Lanier, one of Madison’s most prominent residents, made a fortune from banking and railroad interests during the first half of the nineteenth century. Lanier pursued railroad development after Indiana passed the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act in 1836 and quickly became the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad’s major stockholder. By the early 1850s, Lanier had formed business connections in New York City and relocated there. However, he generously supported the Indiana’s efforts during the Civil War by loaning over one million dollars to outfit the state’s troops. The loan was repaid in full, including interest, only five years after the end of the war.
The Lanier Mansion, a stunning example of Greek Revival architecture, was built in 1844 as Lanier’s home in Madison. It was donated to the Jefferson County Historical Society by Lanier’s son in 1917 in the hopes of creating a Lanier Memorial Museum. The site, now owned and operated by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark (the highest designation the National Park Service awards) in 1994.