Madison Indiana is one of the most nicely preserved (to my taste) 19th century towns I've come across. The town's population has been remarkably stable over the last 140 years. In 1870 Madison's population was 10,709. It's current population is only slightly greater at 11,967. Madison was founded in 1809. It thrived as a steamboat port, commercial center, and home of small industries through the first half of the 1800s. By 1850 it had reached a population of 8,012. Many of the buildings in Madison today were built during that period. Downtown Madison is very alive today. Small shops and restaurants line the street. The work done to improve storefronts over the years has been tasteful for the most part. There are hardly any gaps on the central blocks of Main street where older buildings have been torn down and replaced with parking lots or modern store fronts as is so often the case in other towns. Almost all of the newer buildings and strip shopping developments in Madison have been built on top of the bluff, away from the river and away from the historic core. The historic district has a healthy amount of traffic but is not overwhelmed with tourists and isn't so clean and fixed up that it seems fake.
Madison has had an active preservation community for many years. Historic Madison is one of the main organizations in that community and has lots of information about visiting Madison on it's website. The most interesting preservation project I came across while I was in town was an effort to convert the Eagle Cotton Mill into a resort hotel and restaurant. The Eagle Mill was built in 1884. Textile operations ceased at the mill in the 1930s. It was then used by a container company until the 1980s and has been empty since. The project was not very far along when I visited in 2013. I hope they are successful. It will be a really fantastic hotel and reuse project if they can make it work. Clifty Falls State Park - an interesting park with a decent campground and great views of a giant smoke stack is 3 miles West of Madison.
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