49 East Madison Street is a quaint little cottage near the heels of the Historic Artcraft Theatre behind The Willard, across the street from Wild Geese Bookshop and the offices of Franklin Heritage Inc. While the space might be small, the colorful Japanese-style bungalow was built in 1921.
The Artcraft Cottage, as it is known, is currently a place for hosting events, an extra space during live performances for the Artcraft, and a gathering space. In June 2005, FHI purchased the Cottage to slowly restore it to a stunning little abode, but what did The Cottage used to be? With a long history, Glenn Faris, History and Preservation Coordinator for Franklin Heritage Inc., and I looked at newspaper clippings and photos to piece together The Cottage's story.
The Cottage was built one year before the Artcraft in 1921. When the theatre was constructed, it was constructed less than three feet behind the back of The Cottage. Looking out of its back windows, all you can see is exposed brick. For most of its life, The Cottage was a residential and commercial property – the front was a storefront, and the posterior was living quarters.
It opened as a music store named Goldsmith's Music Shop, selling pianos, sheet music, and "everything for your music needs." At the time, the shop was right next to the Interurban Station, which had a stop on the southwest corner of Main and Madison Street. Goldsmith's claimed to be the most unique music shop in the states, and literally that "Indianapolis has nothing on us" in its newspaper advertisement.
After its phase as a music shop came Herod Millinery, a women's hat shop. This should be distinct from the haberdashery on the second floor of the Artcraft just around the corner, which sold men's hats. Although two hat shops were a lot to handle, Herod Millinery operated out of the Cottage until 1936, when they moved to a bigger space to expand and grow.
After Herod Millinery, a hair salon and beauty parlor moved into The Cottage, making the quaint space its home for nearly 30 years. Grace Makee owned the parlor that styled hair and sold beauty supplies from 1936 through the 1960s. While Makee operated the successful beauty store out of the front half of The Cottage, she also lived in the back with two other boarders that resided with her.
In the 70s, The Cottage turned into a private residence, and not much is known about who lived there; however, an article exists about Patrick, Devon McChick, a black and silver bantam rooster, who lived at the residence. Patrick was one of Franklin's "most prominent and popular citizens." He was hatched on Thanksgiving Day on November 23, 1966, and brought to Robert McKee by Mrs. Mable Middleton from Edinburg.
In a newspaper article from September 17, 1968, it was reported that Patrick was kidnaped, and an alert sounded for the entire police force of Franklin to go find him. The police had gotten a tip that the "villains" had held the rooster in Trafalgar and were waiting to make their getaway. The article shares, "Just in the nick of time, police made their arrest, and the kidnappers were forced to hand over their victim. (That wasn't the first time someone gave the police department the 'bird.')."
When FHI bought the home in 2005, it had many memories but needed a little TLC to bring it back to life.
"Obviously, we couldn't do much with it right when we bought it. We had just bought a theater," says Glenn Faris, History and Preservation Coordinator for Franklin Heritage Inc. "So a lot of the work that happened between 2008, 2013, 2014, and 2015."
One of the big things that FHI did during the renovation was connect the Artcraft to The Cottage via a short hallway. There are only a couple of feet between the back of The Cottage and the side wall of the Artcraft. A hole was cut through the cinder block and brick at the theater. The hallway is less than an arm span, but the connection meant that the theatre's backstage could access The Cottage and all the extra space. This year, special guests who have visited the Artcraft, like Katherine Center and the Glenn Miller Band autograph the wall that bridges the gap between the theatre and the Cottage.
During the renovation period, many of the Artcraft volunteers helped to restore the space to its present-day state, a few of which are Dennis Norman, Connie Hill, and Mike Hill. Denis Norman, a craftsman at Madison Street Salvage, constructed a sliding barn door from two old Texaco Wildstar gas station doors that used to sit on the corner of Jefferson and Walnut Street. One door deteriorated on the bottom, and the other deteriorated on the top. Dennis "Frankensteined" them into one larger door that can slide back and forth on a track. Without sacrificing character and history, the repurposed sliding door brought functionality to separate the front and back rooms.
Mike and Connie Hill sanded the floors of the building so the wood shone in the sunlight. In addition to the interior, FHI also brought colorful charm to the outside of the Japanese-style bungalow. Stucco falling off in big chunks was replaced with hardy plank siding that looked like clapper. Galvanized gutters and rain chain downspouts were added in 2013, which added an eclectic touch. And most Eagle Scouts helped lay brick pavers in the front of the Cottage repurposed from Franklin's old street brick.
As it sits today, the Cottage hosts many events and is a cozy place to gather. From hosting art galleries during Ethos Art Festival, being a stop on the Secret Garden Tour, to being the space for your next get-together, Franklin Heritage brought the Cottage back to life in its best form while preserving its history and integrity.
If you would like information about using the The Cottage for a rental event, please contact us here.
Megan Elaine is a writer and storyteller who lives in Franklin, IN.