(BLOOMINGTON) – In a ceremony at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Toby Theatre Thursday, May 16, Indiana Landmarks honored the City of Bloomington with the award for “Outstanding Restoration or Rehabilitation Outside of Marion County” for the former Showers factory building now known as The Mill.
The Central Office of Indiana Landmarks awards the distinction annually to one project in a thirteen-county area.
Built in 1915, The Mill is one of the buildings that remain from the Showers Brothers Furniture Company complex that once occupied fifteen acres west of Morton Street in downtown Bloomington. The complex includes the structure renovated in the 1990s that houses Bloomington City Hall and the Monroe County Government. Little used since the 1950s, the Mill was designated in 2016 by Mayor John Hamilton to serve as the anchor of Bloomington’s Trades District and Certified Tech Park, the city’s new hub for the high-technology sector.
“We are gratified to receive this award from Indiana Landmarks,” said Hamilton. “The building’s history is relevant to its current use, and we hoped that connection would remain apparent through the adaptive reuse. A hundred years ago, workers there turned lumber into furniture sold nationwide. Working at The Mill, today’s innovators and entrepreneurs can tap into that same spirit of making and transforming to produce technology for a global market.”
Located at 642 North Madison Street, The Mill is a 19,000-square foot brick warehouse-style building distinguished by the same sawtooth roofline as the City Hall building. During the rehabilitation of The Mill, the Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission worked closely with the architects to ensure that the character-defining features were preserved and restored. The brick walls, jagged saw-tooth roof, and the industrial divided-lite steel windows original to the building remained integral parts of its design as it was adapted to its new use. Many of the original materials — wooden posts, beams, and flooring, for example — and much of the original hardware — such as the brackets for the roof beams — have been retained and showcased.
After the City’s $4 million investment in the renovation, The Mill opened as a coworking and business incubator space October 31, 2018. The Mill is being operated by Dimension Mill Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to attracting, developing, and retaining talent and growing wages in Bloomington. The facility features large open areas, such as an open workspace and two-story event venue, bespoke office suites available on entrepreneur-friendly month-to-month terms, and meeting rooms, a podcast/film studio, and collaborative spaces.
“Rehabilitating historic buildings is always a tricky endeavor,” said Historic Preservation Program Manager Conor Herterich. “You have to strike a balance between modifying the building to serve a new function and staying true to the building’s original form and features, but the rehabilitation of the Dimension Mill is textbook. This is a perfect example of how historic buildings can be sensitively restored the historic character and charm is maintained but also adapted to a new use so the building can be economically and socially relevant to the present community.”
Indiana Landmarks was founded in 1960 by Hoosier civic and business leaders to preserve significant sites for the benefit of present and future generations. It is one of the largest nonprofit historic preservation organizations in the nation.