HPC denies historic house gas lighting request

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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) voted unanimously to approve an application from Jimmy Stanton to install porch lights at his 1851 historical home located at 928 Eatonton Road in Madison. Stanton’s application was approved on the condition that Stanton switch to electrical lightning, as opposed to the gas lighting he requested in the original application. “Gas lighting was not, historically, present in Madison,” said Ken Kocher, city planner. “We do not want to create the sense of a false history by allowing them in the historic district.”

“I have been looking at so many things, looking at lighting, and to me, the gas lights look more historic. It looks more like a candlelight, which would be more appropriate to an 1851 house,” said Stanton. “That, to me, looks more traditional, more historic than the other ones I’ve been looking at.” Richard Simpson, HPC member, explained that while gas lighting may indeed be a historical feature of other similar places, like New Orleans or Charleston, gas lighting did not arrive in Madison until the 1950s. “Back then, we were this little, small rural down, that didn’t have the big city amenities, like piped gas…” said Simpson. “What we are charged with doing is making sure that all the pieces in the historic district are appropriate to our own history, our actual history, not the history of other places.” Eric Joyce, an HPC member, agreed with Simpson, pointing out that gas lights have not had approval in historic district in over 15 years.

“We don’t want to give off a false history and we have been careful not to give off a false history in Madison, even painstakingly so,” said Joyce. Stanton agreed to install the electric lighting. “We appreciate you understanding about the gas lights and we look forward to your progress,” said Steve Schaefer, chairman of the HPC. The HPC also approved Phil and Kimberlie Herrington’s application for the demolition of rear addition and porch at 381 North Main Street and Sandy Sanford’s application for site changes concerning fencing, retaining walls and parking at 399 West Jefferson Street.

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