Remarkable Revival

Managers, workers team up
to restore a Madison, Ind., landmark

Former Eagle Cotton Mill to open in July
as a Fairfield Inn

(June 2021) – The Eagle Cotton Mill project on the riverfront in Madison, Ind., is unique in many ways: the age of the historic building, the size and scope of the renovation, the complex financing, and the collaboration of city, state, private investors and business partners. Now that the project is nearing completion, one other unique factor stands out:
“Everyone who’s here wants to be here,” said Ron Bateman, founding member of Riverton, LLC. “There is a universal love of this building and this project. Workers want to do a better job than their bosses ask of them. They show up and work together well. They feel lucky to work on this. It’s pretty unusual.”
The result of that teamwork is the amazing transformation of a dilapidated 137-year-old building into a shining new 85-room Fairfield Inn that is scheduled to open in July. The bright white letters of the logo were installed on the east and west sides of the building in mid-May, matching the new white windows. Finally, the long-awaited new hotel is a reality.

June 2021 cover

June 2021 Cover

The complete renovation budget for this project in 2020 was more than $21 million. “It would have been easier and cheaper to demolish the structure and build a new building,” Bateman said.
Bateman, 71, is a self-described Indiana boy who returned to his home state in 2017 after more than 30 years in Anchorage, Alaska. He chose Madison as his new hometown because of his happy memories of traveling here with his grandfather from the farm in Versailles, Ind. “I came to Madison often as a child. This is as good as it gets,” he said.  Bateman and his wife, Marlene, purchased a historic home in downtown Madison and started planning the renovation process. One of the construction firms he contacted was ERJO Construction, located in Vevay, Ind. The owner is Herschel Brichto.
Brichto, 64, grew up in the Cincinnati area and then traveled throughout the world, including Alaska. In 1987, he decided to move from Kodiak, Alaska, to settle down on a farm in Vevay. He started ERJO Construction in 1990. Initially, he did some remodeling and some new home construction.
Over time, Brichto focused more on historic renovations of homes, barns, churches and custom additions to historic properties. In 2017, he answered an unknown caller on his cell phone because it displayed 907, the area code of Alaska. Brichto assumed it was an old buddy from the past. Instead, it was Bateman calling to discuss the possible renovation of his home in Madison.

Fairfield Inn

Photo provided

The above rendition shows the future finished renovation of the Eagle Cotton Mill into a Fairfield Inn in Madison, Ind.

The new home was not the only project on Bateman’s mind. One of the first things Bateman had noticed in downtown Madison was the neglected massive brick structure towering on the riverfront along Vaughn Drive at the corner of St Michael’s Ave. The year “1884” was carved on the limestone lintel over a door on the west side of the building – the old Eagle Cotton Mill. Like many before him, Bateman was captivated by the potential, the possibilities: condominiums, a hotel, a conference center. It was the subject of many discussions with Brichto during the time he was working on Bateman’s home. Bateman learned about the history and the many previous failed attempts to salvage the mill. He decided to approach the city. At that time, Mayor Damon Welch said that the city would prefer a hotel to serve and enhance Madison’s tourism.
Riverton LLC was formed by Bateman and two colleagues from Anchorage: John McGrew and Glenn Gellert, to initiate the project. For the first time, multiple levels of complex financing and tax credits were successfully secured, including a partnership with Indianapolis-based Dora Hospitality. Significant support was provided by the city of Madison and the state of Indiana. In addition to investing, Dora Hospitality will operate the finished hotel.

Ron Bateman

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Ron Bateman of Riverton LLC is pictured at the Fairfield Inn site. He saw the potential in reviving the former Cotton Mill after retiring to Madison a few years ago.

“There was such a strong desire to get this done if we could prove there was a chance to do it, ” Bateman said.  “No one got in our way. The deal finally closed on March 18, 2020. A new LLC, Denali Construction, was formed to do the construction because all outside bids were unaffordable. Marlene Bateman is serving as the Business Manager. Her brother, Dave Titus, is serving as the Project Manager. Titus retired in 2018 after working as a Project Manager in Anchorage for BP, in support of Prudhoe Bay Operations.
ERJO Construction was selected as the lead subcontractor. It started the extensive site cleanup in November 2019. In spite of the significant problems caused by years of neglect, the massive masonry structure had good bones.
It was built on a solid base of natural gravel from the riverbed. There had been virtually no settling over the years, Bateman said. “The building itself is remarkably stable.”
The walls at the ground level are 30 inches of solid brick built on a foundation of five-foot square limestone blocks that are six feet deep. The thickness of the brick walls is reduced by the width of one brick per floor so that the walls at the top are “only” 18 inches thick. Every brick in the entire project was touched.
“We tuck-pointed every joint in each building,” Bateman said. “We matched the color and texture of the mortar. All of the brick work was cleaned with a mild chemical. It gives the project a finished look. It is as perfect as possible.”

Getting it done right

The National Park Service manages all aspects of historic renovations in a very exacting fashion to ensure that historical accuracy is maintained, especially external elements such as windows and doors. Roger Welch, 64, Welch Millwork and Design in Madison, has more than 40 years of experience replicating 19th century wood millwork.
“Roger is a major carpenter, a woodworker’s woodworker,” Bateman said. Welch used mortise and tenon woodworking techniques to replicate the six-panel, 12-foot high double doors, frames and 12-light transoms with meticulous attention to detail.
“I love Madison, and I love what I do,” said Welch. “There is gratification and happiness when you enjoy your work – then it is not work. It has been a joy to do these doors.”

Marlene Bateman

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Ron Bateman’s wife, Marlene Bateman, is Business Manager for the project, while her brother, Dave Titus, is Project Manager.

More than 100 craftsmen and workers contributed their hard work and expertise to this project. “I can do everything,” said Oscar Garcia, a 21-year ERJO Construction employee.
“He’s a Master craftsman,” Bateman said. Garcia built the stacked river stone, double-sided fireplace in the hotel lobby.
“There is no mortar holding the stones in place. Each stone was cut on the top and bottom, both ends and the back side to fit perfectly,” Garcia said proudly.
On the other side of the lobby, Leo Toral, head painter, and Sergio Nonato, painter, were touching up the painted walls and ceiling. “We sprayed over 230 gallons of paint each day for days and days,” Toral said with a smile.
In the hallway, Julio Rios was finishing the wood trim moldings on the inside of a window. He had personally trimmed more than 400 windows in the hotel.

Roger Welch

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Madison carpenter Roger Welch (below) was hired to created the 12-foot high double doors (above) at Fairfield Inn.

Troy Bartosz and his daughters, Danielle, 13, and Alaina, 15, had just completed a tiled wall as well as the tilework in all of the bathrooms. “This is a home-school project,” Bartosz explained. “The girls have learned a career skill and are paid normal wages. They are learning to budget their earnings to save, to give, and to spend.”
Often, as many as 15 subcontractors were working in the building at the same time. Much of the work that remains for the last month of the project is paving and landscaping on the six-acre property. On the north side of the building, Russell Boswell was working on a stone wall, using large old limestone curbs that were removed from St. Michaels Avenue when the new cement sidewalks were poured.
On the south side, the SkyTrak crane that was used to install the windows, is now being used to lift a large metal bin to an open window to facilitate trash removal. Operator Nick Stanley said, “This job is really cool.  We take pride in what we do.”

Roger Welchk door

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Roger Welch's 12-foot door is shown above.

Reflecting on the work of the subcontractors, Bateman said, “A lot of the success of this project at the craft level has to go to Herschel, the construction superintendent. He is a brilliant guy who loves to work with his hands. He takes an intellectual approach to craft.”

Artistic touch in lobby

“The Eagle Cotton Mill,” an original Eric Phagan oil painting, will be the focal point of the main lobby. Phagan, 41, is a Madison artist and high school art teacher who is a nationally recognized and award-winning Indiana artisan. The scene is turn-of-the-century Madison, a view across the river from Milton, Ky. The mill is visible in the early light of a misty, warm morning, through the smoke and coal dust. The scene includes the City of Madison boat and the Trimble, a ferry used to transport people between Madison and Milton.
Phagan explained, “The painting conveys a sense of time and place in keeping with the original cotton mill. My paintings look like old photographs with the lines cutting through. It gives the validation of age but also gives a contemporary view to a traditional subject. I like the dichotomy or play between the two, which I feel gives me my signature style.”
A print of Phagan’s painting of the Broadway Fountain will be featured in each guest room: The Fall Fountain in King rooms and the Spring Fountain in Queen rooms. 
“The City of Madison has been very supportive,” said Vince Dora, president of Dora Hospitality. “This is first adaptive historical build for a Fairfield Inn.”

Eric Phagan painting

Photo provided

Madison, Ind., artist Eric Phagan created this painting to hang in the lobby of the new Fairfield Inn. He also created paintings that will adorn some of the hotel rooms.

Typically, each Fairfield Inn is new construction, built to a consistent design and specifications. The new General Manager, Chris Baruxes, 34, of Bright, Ind., brings 12 years of hotel management experience to his new role in Madison. His primary project has been the interviewing, hiring and training of new staff. “We are always looking for good hardworking people,” Baruxes said.
Hotel amenities will include a complimentary breakfast for hotel guests plus a bar with light bar food available to purchase. “This hotel is a gem for the City of Madison. Once we are up and running, it will bring a flurry of activity to the east side of Madison. Anything we can do to promote this city we are happy to do,” Baruxes said.
Madison Mayor Bob Courtney praised the project for the economic impact during the construction process. “Not only will the Cotton Mill play a strategic role in our tourism and riverfront efforts, but it provided a substantial boost to our local economy by partnering with area contractors and vendors during construction that produced millions of dollars of goods and services to the community. This is not discussed much, but we are very grateful, especially during this past year,” he said.
“Special thanks to Mayor Bob Courtney for allowing us to stay as productive as possible during the pandemic,” Brichto said. “It impacted our schedule. We followed the guidelines, but we were not shutdown.”
With the finish line in sight, Brichto is quick to add: “Give the lion’s share of credit to Ron: his vision and stubbornness, intrepidness to believe it could be done and to stick with it. Without Ron, it would not have happened. We’ve had surprisingly few problems that plague large construction projects. We’re on budget despite the serious impact of the pandemic, and we are close to being on schedule. We’ve worked through so many issues.”
Bateman responded, “It is a privilege to be able to do this. It has a high personal cost, but anything worth doing is worth doing well. So many people have been critical to the success of this project.”
Perhaps this quote from the legendary coach Vince Lombardi sums it up best: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. Every job is a self portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.” Madison’s new Fairfield Inn has been autographed with excellence at every step by each individual craftsman.

• Reservations after July 15 for the new Fairfield Inn are now available on the Marriott Internet website, www.Marriott.com.


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