At this point in my life there are few occasions when I can claim the ingenue role… Last Thursday, however, was my first performance as a volunteer tour guide at the Shrewsbury-Windle House, a beautifully restored National Historic Landmark just a block and a half from my home. The American Countess paddlewheel riverboat was in town, and passengers stopped by the museum house throughout the day during their “Hop-on Hop-off Tour” of Madison, Indiana’s historic downtown.

Shrewsbury-Windle House First Floor Hall
Shrewsbury-Windle House Spiral Staircase & Oculus

Luckily for me, I was able to shadow more experienced tour guides and get a good feeling of how to present the information I’d been given during my recent training session. The house and many of its architectural details are superb, and they are the stars of the show.

I’m sure I’ll be a bit tenuous in my tour delivery for a while, but practice makes perfect! Historic Madison, Inc, owners of Shrewsbury-Windle House and four other museums in town, have an aggressive tour schedule planned this year for all of their museum properties. In addition to the seasonal boat tours, their museums have public tours during the week & Saturdays, Heritage Days tours for school children, and tours by appointment. If you’d like to join the volunteer team, I’m sure Program Director Jessica would love to hear from you!

View of Masonic Schofield House from my balcony during American Countess visit
Lanier Mansion State Historic Site during American Countess visit
Main Street Shopping Area

Shrewsbury-Windle House is one of seven planned stops during the day-long “Hop-on Hop-off Tour” adventure for visiting riverboat passengers. American Queen Voyages bring their own motorcoaches for a continuous transportation loop between tour stops, and their visitors are also encouraged to walk through the downtown and explore. The other planned tour stops are Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum (also owned by Historic Madison, Inc), Masonic Schofield House, Broadway Fountain, Jefferson County Historical Society History Center and Madison Depot, Lanier Mansion State Historic Site (also a National Historic Landmark), and the Main Street Shopping Area.

Riverboat Landing at Madison (Vintage postcard circa 1908)

People have been visiting Madison, Indiana on Ohio River paddlewheelers for 200 years, and their comings and goings never go unnoticed by residents. Wafting music from the calliopes of today’s docked cruise ships draw people to the riverfront. Looking for a quintessential photo opp in Madison? You’ll find one when the boats are in!

American Countess” docked in Madison, Indiana

The American Countess is back in town today through tomorrow until 5pm, making their third visit this month. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of one of the beautiful American Queen Voyages’ riverboats docked at Madison’s riverfront, you’ll have plenty of opportunities this year. Here’s the docking schedule for American Countess, American Duchess and American Queen on the 11 remaining cruise stops planned for June – November, 2022, 8am-5pm:

◦ June 1 – American Countess

◦ June 13 – American Countess

◦ June 15 – American Countess

◦ July 11 – American Duchess

◦ August 2 – American Queen

◦ August 14 – American Queen

◦ August 31 – American Countess

◦ September 12 – American Countess

◦ October 24 – American Duchess

◦ November 5 – American Duchess

◦ November 7 – American Duchess

Madison’s Step-on Guides ready to board the coaches for the tour circuit (L to R: Julie/Visit Madison, Jan, Jill and Gail)

When a riverboat comes to Madison, it truly “takes a village” to roll out the red carpet and welcome our guests. When the curtain goes up at 8am, volunteers are in position at the museum stops, the Visitors Center is open, and many of the Main Street merchants have the lights on and shop doors open well in advance of usual business hours. At 5pm when the boats leave the shore, we hope we’ve shared the essence of Madison with our paddlewheel visitors – its unique history & well-preserved architecture, its natural beauty, and its friendly and enthusiastic people. #ProudOfOurTown

A few Shrewsbury-Windle House Tour Guides (L to R: Yours Truly/Sally, Boone, Cindy, Michelle & Marva)

Countless tourism ambassadors throughout Madison are ready to greet you when you visit, so some on by and say, “Hi!”

Jefferson County Library Collection

P.S. If you’re interested in a deep dive into Madison’s riverboat history, check out our Jefferson County Library’s online article, River to Rail: Age of Steam.

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.