Downtown Madison, The Fair Play Fire Company No. 1, Benches and a walking path along the river - Photos Courtesy of Katrina Falk via Flickr's Creative Commons.
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Madison, Indiana

Eagle Cotton Mill

Top: Eagle Cotton Mill, c. 1910. Bottom: Weaving Room at Eagle Cotton Mill.

Top: Eagle Cotton Mill, c. 1910.
Bottom: Weaving Room at Eagle Cotton Mill.
Courtesy of the Jefferson County
Historical Society Research Library

Built in 1884, the Eagle Cotton Mill is the best remaining historic example of Madison’s working, industrial waterfront. The long, narrow main building is four stories tall and measures 75 feet by 300 feet, taking up a whole city block. One hundred, eight-foot tall windows (25 on each story) set in brick arches follow the course of the building’s longer sides, allowing workers to make the most of natural light. Each interior floor is designed as a single open space with an enclosed corner stairwell. The expansive open floor plan allowed mill owners to fit massive machinery used during the cotton milling process. Two small wings create the building’s “F” shape with the central arm sloping down to create a shipping warehouse and the end wing housing the mill’s power station.

When the Eagle Cotton Mill Company of Madison organized in 1880, its trustees hired local architecture firm Rankin and White to create a building suitable for milling operations. Robert H. Rankin and James White made names for themselves by building most of Madison’s late 19th-century wool and cotton mills that crowded the busy riverfront. By 1900, the Eagle Cotton Mill Company was in serious debt. Noted Madison industrialist Richard Johnson, Sr. purchased the mill and turned it into a profitable business in less than five years. Under Johnson’s management, the Eagle Mill employed over 400 workers who produced low-grade cotton yardage, tobacco canvas, and twine. The company sold its milling equipment in 1932, shifting its focus to making shoes and later canvas baskets. Meese Incorporated, a Madison company that made canvas containers before moving to plastics, occupied the building from 1938 until the 1980s.

The Eagle Cotton Mill contributes to the historic significance of the Madison Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Plan your visit

The Eagle Cotton Mill is located at 108 St. Michael’s Ave. It is privately owned and is currently not open to the public. Click here for the Madison Historic District National Historic Landmark file: text.

The Eagle Cotton Mill has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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