A part of Madison’s industrial history went down in flames about 70 years ago and the land in the southeast corner of Poplar and Second streets has sat dormant since then with trees and weeds overtaking the site that was a planing mill in the 1800s, a button factory in the early 1900s and a boat factory beginning in the 1930s.
But new life is coming to the property — and a remembrance to its industrial past — as the city of Madison plans to revitalize the area with landscaping and parking.
Funding is coming from Destination Madison dollars that the city is receiving from Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), along with other grants.
At the last Board of Public Works and Safety (BPWS) meeting, Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz Inc. was hired as consultant for the project with work slated to begin in the fall.
Tony Steinhardt III, the city’s economic director, said the project will be scheduled to have minimal impact on the city’s tourism season. “It’s in the heart of our festival zone so we would look for this project to begin in late fall and conclude by the end of May and miss those festivals.”
The project encompasses land east of Poplar Street across from the Shrewsbury-Windle House that was transferred to the city through an agreement with Historic Madison Foundation Inc., along with a city-owned empty lot across from Lamplighter Park. There also will be a new sidewalk along Poplar Street from the riverfront to the Shrewsbury-Windle House. Additionally, Steinhardt said an alley that goes from Poplar Street to Center Avenue will be turned into a walkway and provide a connection to Bicentennial Park.
“If you think about it, Shrewsbury is one of our most precious national historic landmarks” along with the Lanier Mansion, said Steinhardt. “We will be improving the street, pedestrian access as well as parking for both handicapped, golf cart parking” along with making other improvements.
The historic stone gutters will be preserved along Poplar Street between First Street and Vaughn Drive, and “try to create the authenticity of that space that we’re so lucky to still have around the Shrewsbury House,” Steinhardt said.
John Staicer, president and executive director of Historic Madison Inc. (HMI), said the stone gutters and curb stones are some of the last 19th century stormwater drainage infrastructure found in the city and perhaps the state. They have been in place for well over 100 years, most likely dating back to the 1850 to 1900 period.
“They are typical of gutters once found all over Madison,” Staicer said. “There are still remnants near the Lanier Mansion but the best preserved and still very functional ones are the ones on Poplar Street.”
There will also be an effort to preserve trees in that space, said Steinhardt, calling them “very important trees that are very mature.”
Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said at that BPWS meeting “that this particular project is a combination of things — it’s preservation, it’s riverfront development, it’s blight elimination, it’s environmental and I’m glad we’re partnering with HMI on this. It’s been a long time coming,” and now engineering, planning and funding is all coming together for a successful execution of the project.
Steinhardt said the parking located across from Lamplighter Park, will provide 83 parking spaces to be marked off and accommodate both cars and golf carts.
The foundation of the building that was once used for industrial purposes still exists, and Steinhardt suggested that will be preserved, and possibly developed into a passive pollinator garden. By leaving that foundation of the building, it will be “giving everybody a sense of what that building would have been like,” and maintaining the history of that space. Additionally, he anticipates there will be information on the site that tells the story of the city’s industrial history while celebrating the industry that was on the site, along with showcasing the Shrewsbury-Windle House.
“The history of Madison, especially the early history is tied into industry, especially along the riverfront,” said Staicer, noting the “river was key. Madison wouldn’t exist without the river.” In the early years when Madison was growing, “all the industry was down there” near the riverfront “because that’s where the shipping was.”
Eventually that changed with a network of rail lines that took the industrial connections away from Madison. “Once you had a rail hub in Indianapolis with all the railroads feeding in there, instead of bringing stuff to Madison, that sucked everything from river up into Indianapolis,” Staicer said. “It was going the reverse way, and that was start of the decline of Madison.”
The building that stood on the former HMI property served as a planing mill as early as the 1850s with Staicer finding a map from 1854 that showed a planing mill there. An 1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showed the W.R. Pattie Planing Mill on the site.
Eventually, it was no longer used as a planing mill, according to an article written by Howard Denton that stated the business became the Pearl Button Company in 1904. The business, founded by Charles B. Melish, closed in the mid-1920s.
In the early 1930s, it became a boat factory, owned by Birl Hill. Fire struck the building twice — first in February of 1946 and again in July of 1953. The 1946 fire swept through the main floor of the building, and all but the rear and east end of the original brick building was destroyed, according to a July 2, 1953, article in The Madison Courier. In the 1946 fire, the company was fortunate that the flames failed to reach the section where the factory’s machinery was located. In 1953, all contents of the building were destroyed and after that, nothing was done with the property.
Eventually, with the land being across the street from the Shrewsbury-Windle House, it was purchased by HMI founder John T. Windle and his wife, Ann. John Windle died in 1987, and prior to the death of Ann Windle in 2009, the deed was transferred to the Historic Madison Foundation.
Staicer is pleased to see what was once an industrialized riverfront now been transformed by utilizing the city’s history.
“Now, the riverfront is one of the main attractions downtown,” Staicer said. “It’s pretty amazing what’s been done with the riverfront.”
He said the improvements that are coming with this project are another step forward in that transformation.
“This will become a nice addition to the riverfront as part of the city’s continued riverfront development and expansion,” Staicer said.
With the town of Hanover now recording its municipal meetings using a security camera system, council members discussed on Tuesday what to do with thousands of dollars of previously purchased and never-used camera equipment.
When Madison TV15 was discontinued in March of 2021, the town appropriated up to $7,000 to purchase its own equipment in April of that year to begin webcasting city meetings and events. Soon after, the Cable Advisory Board (CAB) took over operations and continued to lead the effort in recording county meetings until it was dissolved in November.
For more than a year, the Epiphan video production system that was purchased last year went unused by the town while the CAB continued to record the meetings. When the CAB dissolved, the town council moved forward in developing plans for recording its own meetings.
The Epiphan video equipment is the same system as used by the city of Madison but Hanover town council determined the setup was too complicated for its purposes. The council instead decided to utilize the same equipment that the town police use for surveillance after being told that it would be easier to operate and cost less.
Now, after never using the original equipment, town council president Kenny Garrett contacted a representative from B&H Production System, the company where the equipment was purchased, about a return and refund. The response was that since the purchase is more than a year old the best the company will do is to reimburse the city $2,500 for equipment that originally cost the town $4,010.73. The overall cost, including microphones, was $5,919.
Garrett said the $2,500 offer from B&H is good until Jan. 16, so the council decided to explore other options for selling the never-used equipment and make a decision at its Jan. 3 meeting. One possibility proposed by council member Treva Shelton was to contact the city of Madison to see if there is interest in purchasing the equipment for back-up purposes.
• Tuesday’s meeting was the last for town council members Denise Buxton and Kathi Scroggins, whose terms are completed at the end of this year. Both decided not to seek reelection and are being replaced by Tim Buxton and Benjamin Sommer. Meanwhile, deputy clerk-treasurer Kim Judge sat in for clerk-treasurer Keith Mefford, who is in Florida. Mefford’s last meeting was Dec. 6, with Coby Cloud taking over as clerk-treasurer Jan. 1.
• Approved expenditure of senior citizens funds for a trip to Derby Dinner Playhouse that will take 32 people to see Grumpy Old Men, the Musical. Cost of a bus to transport the group will be $1,600.80 and cost of the tickets is $1,050.
• Hanover Police Officer Kyle Pence said the winter weather storm has kept the town’s police busy the last few days. “It was really bad” with the weather conditions, noting they’ve assisted with several vehicle slide-offs.
• Superintendent of Streets and Utilities Scott Williams said this year’s winter storm came earlier than planned with 80 tons of salt available. “Usually we have our snows in January and February, so I have to admit I didn’t go overboard on salt on side streets because I don’t want to run out (before the end of the winter season), so I did main roads and hills. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not because I think people are used to the roads being completely clear, and they’re not.”
Williams said he would have salted more roads if it was later in the winter season. Shelton said she felt Williams made the right the decision to ensure there’s enough salt for snhowfalls later in the winter.
• Approved the council meeting and park board schedule for 2023 with council meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. and park board on the first Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. The only exceptions is the first meeting of July, which is moved to the first Wednesday for the council and park board because Independence Day is on the first Tuesday. Also, the last council meeting of the year in 2023 will be Wednesday, Dec. 27.
• Approved an agreement for fire protection services with the Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Department at a cost of $31,000.
• Approved a payment of $33,502 for Wessler Engineering as part of the sewer system and wastewater treatment plant improvement project.
• Approved the hiring of Michael Durben on Jan. 4 as a waste water operator for $17 per hour.
• Approved transfer of a donation of $15,000 to Hanover Happy Holidays Inc., the non-profit that is overseeing the town’s holiday festivals and events. All funds must be used for those activities. All council members voted in the support with the exception of council member Debbie Kroger who abstained because she also serves on the board of that non-profit.
I thought I’d use this week’s column to talk about the music options for New Year’s Eve here in Indiana’s Music City. But before I get to that, I want to speak directly to those of you who don’t go out and party on the last night of the year.
I mean, I get it. Maybe you just don’t want to get dressed up and stay out late. Or maybe you want to watch the great college football games that are televised on December 31. So to you, let me just say this: You need to strongly consider going out on New Years Eve’s Eve, Friday, December 30.
Some of the most interesting and varied live music is happening the night before the big night. If you’re a fan of the great music of Steely Dan (and who isn’t?) you can catch the amazing tribute band Steely Danish at Red Bicycle Hall on Friday. This 11-piece ensemble recreates the complex and unforgettable songs of the iconic band with delightful accuracy.
If current pop music is more your thing, you’ll want to catch Jackson Snelling at Mad Paddle on Friday night. Jackson is a former American Idol contestant and a powerful performer who is sure to be going places.
And rounding out the Friday offerings, the ever popular Bee Camp Bottom Boys are playing at Rivertown Grill. Bobby Adams and the boys really know how to rev up the crowd and get their feet stomping.
Now, moving on to New Year’s Eve, there are a couple of fun options for free live music downtown, and both are within walking distance. At the Rivertown Grill is a band called BON/DC, which is an AC/DC tribute act. It’s gonna be a total blast to squeeze into that little bar there on Jefferson Street and get “Thunderstruck!” Meaux Swafford is opening the show.
The one I am super excited about is The Albumists playing at The Central on New Year’s Eve. The Albumists are fronted by high-energy wildman Matt “Red” Moore and our favorite son, Jimmy Davis, with Chris Watson on drums and Nick Cicenis on bass. If you don’t mind a smokey old bar, this will be an amazing way to ring in the new year.
Also playing Saturday night, but with tickets completely SOLD OUT, will be Rusty Bladen at Mad Paddle Brewery. This will be the final night of operation for Mad Paddle, as owner Jerry Wade has decided to put the business up for sale and retire. If you happen to be strolling by Saturday night, you might stick your head in the door and see if there is room to squeeze in. It’s worth asking!
The other show that will likely sell out is at the Eagle Cotton Mill Fairfield, with Tim Brickley and the Bleeding Hearts playing. Word is Bill Lancton may be joining the band also. As I write this column, they are saying there are five room packages still available, so it’s worth calling.
As I’m looking forward into January, several ticketed shows are jumping out at me. If you want to see these shows, you may want to grab your tix before they sell out. On Jan. 7 the Shelby Lore band will be back in town at Red Bicycle Hall, after a triumphant performance at the last MadHop Festival. This guy is the real deal and truly impresses all who see his show.
On Thursday Jan. 12 at the House of Jane, Bobby Robbins and Dewey Elledge will be sharing the stage. This will be some down-home country singing and picking of the highest level, for sure. Tickets are at House of Jane Songwriter Sessions on Facebook.
And then on Saturday, Jan 14 at Red Bicycle Hall, a show called the Hot Brown Smackdown will hit the stage. It’s a 6-piece newgrass-fusion ensemble from the great city of Louisville.
Tickets for all Red Bike shows are at RedBicycleHall.com.
Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.
Thursday, Dec. 29
Rivertown Grill — DJ Dance Party
Friday, Dec. 30
Mad Paddle — Jackson Snelling
Rivertown Grill — Beecamp Bottom Boys
Red Bicycle Hall — Steely Dan-ish
Saturday, Dec. 31
Mad Paddle — Rusty Bladen w/Inside Out
Rivertown Grill — AC/DC Tribute w/Meaux Swafford
The Central — The Albumists w/Matt Red Moore
Eagle Cotton Mill — Tim Brickley & the Bleeding Hearts
Tuesday, Jan. 3
Off-Broadway Taproom — Open Mic Night
Wednesday, Jan. 4
Rivertown Grill — Open Mic Night
Offices for Jefferson County government, the City of Madison and Town of Hanover all will be closed on Monday, Jan. 1, 2023, for the New Year’s Day holiday.
The county courthouse and Madison City Hall will both be open on Friday, Dec. 30, but Hanover Town Hall will be closed that day.
The Madison closing includes no trash or recycling pickup on Monday, Jan. 1 with both services delayed one day the week of Jan. 2-6. The city’s waste transfer station on the hilltop will be open 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday Dec. 31, but closed on Monday, Jan. 1.
There also will be no mail delivery on Monday, Jan. 1.