As they say, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. If you take a drive past the old Eagle Cotton Mill along Madison’s riverfront, you might wonder if much remodeling progress has been made over the last several months.

Madison, Indiana’s Eagle Cotton Mill on its way to becoming a Fairfield by Marriott hotel.

Many open windows, or partially covered in plastic, give the impression the long vacant building is still “a heck of a wreck.” First impressions can be deceiving, and after taking a public tour of the property this past weekend, I can assure you changes have occurred. BIG changes!

After decades of hoping the visions of hotel or condos by previous property owners would materialize, this time local tour goers could see that this project – the creation of a Fairfield by Marriott with 85 hotel rooms and meeting space – was not just another false start.

Rendering by RATIO Architects illustrating the past and the future of Eagle Cotton Mill
Vintage Rendering of Eagle Cotton Mill

If you’re not familiar with the Eagle Cotton Mill’s story, there’s lots of good background information online. The National Park Service describes the historical significance of the property located in Madison’s National Historic Landmark downtown, Indiana Landmarks discusses the multi-million dollar redevelopment project, and The Madison Courier covered the partnership group and the groundbreaking in October 2019. You may also enjoy my blog post on Cornerstone Society’s “Trio Tour” last fall that included the Cotton Mill.

Gathering outside before entering the building, many of us were truly impressed by what we could see up close was excellent tuck pointing of the foundation stones and the bricks.

In front of the new elevator shafts

Our small group of eight was shown through the property by a RATIO Architect representative named Andrew. He provided great information and cheerfully answered all of our questions. As we toured, we learned that he was responsible for creating the renderings illustrating the intended finished look of the various hotel areas. The illustrations were beautiful and really helped us visualize how wonderful the spaces were going to be. Rather than describe spaces in detail, I’m using Andrew’s renderings along with photos to tell part of the story here.

Lobby-October 2019 Tour
Vision for Lobby Area
Coffee Bar-Breakfast Area

Windows are a big deal for this building. I should have asked how many there are, but trust me, there are dozens and dozens. I shudder at the thought of replacing the windows on our 1876 house, but the task here is mind boggling. Just “fixing” the existing windows was not an option, but you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in the look of the new air-tight thermal pane replacement windows.

Original window (left), replacement window (right)

Along with all the windows come incredible views for every room and the ends of each central hallway!

The hotel will feature 85 rooms – Queen rooms, Queen suites, King rooms, and Accessible rooms on each floor.

Queen Room
Queen Suite
King Room

In addition to the hotel rooms and common areas, a lobby bar with outside deck facing the river and a beer garden to the rear of the hotel, there will be a large banquet room and meeting rooms on the first floor.

Site for Beer Garden to the rear of the hotel
Large Banquet Room

There were two very interested areas not available to guests. One is a huge room being readied to house the mechanical operations of the complex. Except for a large area opened for equipment access, the room has been rebuilt.

The other area is a separate building to the rear of the hotel that has been rebuilt (minus roof) in hopes of a future restaurant venture.

After an hour long tour of the state of the Cotton Mill remodel, Ken and I left feeling elated about the prospects for Madison’s tourism future. Such a wonderful complement to an already amazing place to visit – and to live!

“Night View” rendering

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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.