Could Jeremiah Sullivan ever imagine how important he and his family would become? Or that his house would jumpstart a nationally recognized preservation movement?”
In 1816 twenty-three year old Jeremiah Sullivan joined a rising flood of emigrants from the east seeking opportunities on the American frontier. He found his in Madison, a settlement of log buildings and mud roads clinging to a narrow shelf of land squeezed between the Ohio River and towering bluffs covered in virgin forests in Indiana Territory.
Sullivan, having completed his attorney’s training in Williamsburg, VA, was appointed prosecuting attorney. Three years later, in 1820, his popularity led to his election to the state legislature in Corydon. His suggestion of “Indianapolis” or City of Indiana, for the capital city within the new state of Indiana cemented his significance in state history. It was buttressed by his ten year tenure on the State Supreme Court from 1836 to 1846.
Virginia settler Charlotte Cutler married Sullivan in 1818. By 1819, their first child, Thomas was born with his eleven siblings following every other year for twenty five years. Of the twelve children Charlotte bore, seven survived to adulthood. Algernon and Jeremiah Jr. (Jerry) were on opposite sides of the Civil War with Jerry Jr. raising a company of soldiers. He ended up as a Brigadier General in the Union Army. Algernon married the daughter of a Southern plantation owner and supported Confederate causes from his New York home. He was jailed briefly as a result of his support for the Confederate States of America. After the war, Algernon was a founder of the Manhattan law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, today one of the world’s largest. His name lives on through the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award which originally provided financial aid to colleges and students, mostly from the Appalachian region, who show “conspicuous and meritorious service to humanity.”
Jeremiah Sullivan Sr. had a large, graceful brick house built for his family ca. 1820 at Poplar and 2nd Streets in Madison. It is designed in classic Federal style reminiscent of the homes he would have seen in his native Virginia. This house was slated for demolition in late 1959 or early 1960 in order to make way for a gas station. Saving this structure and neighborhood streetscape inspired the preservation movement in Madison. A group of local business leaders, rallied by John T. Windle, held a $100 per plate fundraising dinner in 1960 to purchase, save, and restore this Federal masterpiece. Historic Madison, Inc. (HMI) was thus born, leading to the preservation, restoration and reuse of hundreds of historic structures in this National Historic Landmark District.