It seems like there’s a house renovation project in progress on every street in downtown Madison, Indiana. But it’s three BIG projects that are taking center stage, and they’re happening from one end of town to the other. This past weekend, local preservation group Cornerstone Society offered a free “Trio Tour” of these examples of adaptive reuse of historic properties.

If you are unfamiliar with Madison, Indiana, let me pause and bring you up to speed. Downtown Madison is Indiana’s largest historic district and a National Historic Landmark –  133 contiguous blocks that contain a very large collection of fine historic buildings from the early 1800s through the 1930s. The community’s preservation movement began in the early 1960s and continues today with efforts of many individuals, community organizations, and committed city and county government.

I first heard about Cornerstone’s “Trio Tour” when my husband, Ken, saw a short article in The Madison Courier, our local newspaper, the middle of last week. We wanted to go, and we called a friend who was also interested. She told a friend, and we all agreed to make it a foursome and take the golf cart on a preservation excursion. We saw a few fliers posted around and wondered what kind of a turn out there might be on a beautiful summer Saturday morning…

Well! Surprise, surprise – the turnout was beyond what organizers expected. Scores of curious Madison residents turned out, and Cornerstone Society quickly mobilized their membership to secure additional tour guides to satisfy the crowds. It was wonderful to see how many people were keen to know what’s happening with some of the landmark buildings in our historic downtown. The tours were casual, and there were ample opportunities to see first hand what’s going on in these three development projects.

The Tack Factory – future Riverside Tower Lofts apartments
The oldest part of the manufacturing building was built in 1884 as part of the R. Johnson & Son Starch Works and was later occupied and expanded by the Tack Factory, once Madison’s largest employer (1916.) The Tack Factory closed in 2007.

A tax credit of more than $1 million by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and a proposed investment of over $9 million by Denton Floyd Real Estate Group will result in 50 senior affordable apartments.

Former Elks Lodge – future 420 West apartments
The former Elks building suffered extensive damage by a fire in 2006 and a subsequent storm in 2008. Cleanup of the property began in 2017, and the renovation of the early 20th century former lodge into upscale apartments is now almost complete.

Eagle Cotton Millfuture boutique hotel
The Cotton Mill was constructed in 1884 along Madison’s riverfront and has been abandoned for many years. This project is in the earliest stages of development with plans to create a riverfront boutique hotel and conference center. Plans and artist renderings were available to view during the tour, and the project is anticipated to cost approximately $21 million.

AMAZING! And kudos to Cornerstone Society for pulling together such a wonderful opportunity for all who attended.

Meanwhile, Back on Poplar Street
Smaller in scale than the combined three projects above, but exciting in terms of neighborhood enhancement, the west side of the 100-300 blocks of Poplar Street (Ohio River to Main Street) continues to evolve.

Our 1876 Fixer Upper at 315 Poplar Street is slowly but surely moving forward. With HVAC, electric and plumbing inspections behind us (finally!), the insulation, new drywall, plaster skimming (and eventually painting) crew has begun, and exterior bricking of the new mudroom/bath addition, breezeway and garage is underway.

Two houses south at Poplar and Second Streets, Historic Madison, Inc (the organization that started the preservation activity in the 1960s) has begun restoration on the Talbott-Hyatt House. This property will become the organization’s new office space, thereby creating the long planned historic campus for HMI.

The magnificent Shrewsbury-Windle House at Poplar and First Streets is also owned by HMI. They recently won Indiana Landmarks’ 2019 Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration for their four-year transformation of the 1849 Shrewsbury-Windle House National Historic Landmark property. Check out the amazing transformation.

All this to say, keep your eyes on downtown Madison, Indiana. Look around. Small town living in a very real and well-preserved landscape can be a siren song. It is for me!

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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.