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301 West Street - Mad Paddle Brewstillery

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

One of most recognizable and popular ways to support and promote the benefits of preservation is to find new uses for old buildings; a practice called rehabilitation. This location, a former flour mill and feed warehouse, has been transformed into one of Madison's premiere music and entertainment venues reviving not only the building, but an old and proud tradition of brewing great beer in Madison - a practice that began in 1823. Keep reading to find out more about how this was made possible.

This Federal style building was erected sometime around 1840, but the attached 303 side was constructed some time later. Today, both of these buildings serve as one unit, housing the popular Mad Paddle Brewstillery.

The 1886 Sanborn map notates these buildings as warehouses for wool and woolen goods and wheat. So, how did a warehouse become a popular nightlife venue? And, wait, what is a Sanborn map, how do I decode it, and what is it used for?

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, or Sanborn maps for short, are an invaluable source of historical information for preservation professionals, historians, architects, building owners, and others. They were designed to assist insurance agents determine insurance rates by identifying any potential hazards. For example, the owner of a blacksmith shop that is housed in a wooden building would pay a much higher rate for fire insurance than the owner of a shoe store that is housed in a brick building because of the construction material. Wood, the primary building material is much more flammable. Also, the type of industry, blacksmithing, requires an open-flame fire, which carries more risk of a fire event with the strong potential to cause damage. The shoe store, on the other hand, does not require an open-flame fire and is housed in a less-flammable brick building. You can see why this information was important for insurance companies to know! Because of these detailed records, preservationists and people in the building trades often rely on these richly detailed maps because the information about the building's construction, location of windows and doors, size, shape, and even the building's function allows these professionals to restore buildings. Researchers and historians also use these detailed maps to understand a building's historic purpose, identify building materials that may be unique to an area, identify the various social class neighborhoods within a city, and even identify important social customs and values. (Click here for more information on how to decode Sanborn Maps.)

Did you know?

Madison was one of the first brewing cities west of the Alleghenies. Citizens proudly brewed beer and other spirits from 1823 to near the time of the start of Prohibition. (Click here to read more about Madison's brewery economy.)

(Photo courtesy of Mad Paddle)

But beer wasn't the only consumable good sold at this location. From 1914-1939, Clarence D. Moreland sold wholesale produce in this location and had a reputation for providing some of the finest in the area. People talked about the quality of his produce so much, it even made the newspaper when on December 13, 1916, the Courier reported Clarence had just received nine bunches of the "finest bananas" Madison had ever seen - this especially big news in the winter when most fruit was scarce.

First fruit, then beer, and now eggs? From 1947-1980 this location was a hatchery.

From 1947-1980, this location owned and operated by Vawter and Ruth Irwin, along with their son Ronald, served the city as the local Irwin Feed Store an Hatchery. According to a 1949 article by the Madison Courier, "The Irwin incubator has a capacity of 52,000 eggs [...] the hatchery is controlled by electricity and the temperature is kept within one quarter of one degree of the ideal for hatching, 99 degrees." The Irwins owned many farms and Vawter served in several civic positions included President of the Indiana Grain Dealers Association, member of the local 4-H Board, and advisor to Purdue University's Poultry Department.

Following the Irwins' stint as proprietors and stewards of the building, Joe Lamson and family purchased the building in 1981 and ran Lamson's Feed Store, Farm Supply, and Mill until 2000. That's a lot going on in 9000 square feet!

(Photo courtesy of the RoundAbout Entertainment Guide)


301 West Street - A History in Pictures


A New Century - A New Purpose

At the dawn of the 21st century, this building's future was anything but certain as its ownership changed hands several times. Sold to a Louisville, Kentucky real estate developer for $70,000 in 2000, the building just four years later was purchased by Peter Ellis in 2004. Ellis transformed the former feed, supply, and mill into the West Street Art Gallery - a successful business that hosted the Tuesday Night Drawing Club and many other community events. A true philanthropist and community builder, Ellis insisted none of these civic groups were ever charged for the use of the space; instead, it was his way of giving back to the community.

(Sketches from the Tuesday Night Drawing Club courtesy of Betsy Lyman)

Saving History while Making History

Ever since the collapse of its brewing economy around 1918 - one hundred years earlier - residents had longed to bring the practice back to Madison, but no one stepped up to the plate until newcomer Jerry Wade formed an ambitious vision for the space in 2018 and knew it would be the perfect location for his new business venture, a microbrewery. Wade's creativity and commitment to realize this goal set into motion a massive rehabilitation of the aging building.

An old practice meets an old building and - *magic* happens!

Recognizing the importance of the building's history to the citizens of Madison and seeking to honor that history, Wade sought to repurpose not only the historic structure itself, but its contents. According to an article published in the Roundabout newspaper, "Antique equipment and fittings from the building will be featured in the décor. Old barrels, now part of the décor, will eventually hold barrel-aged brew. Burnished metal floor panels once used to protect the hardwood floors from heavy equipment will get new life as the front panels of the bar in the taproom." In fact, another ancient relic from the building's former use, the paddles used to move grain from the loading dock on the first floor to storage bins on the upper levels of the building, gave Wade inspiration for not just décor but a name for his new business - Mad Paddle.

But transforming the building's interior into a hip spot was only part of the daunting task facing Wade. The exterior façade also was in great need of some TLC and a facelift if it was going to last another 178 years and attract a new clientele.

The desire to keep as much of the historic character intact as possible, Wade worked closely with the City of Madison historic preservation staff and the Historic District Board of Review to restore the masonry, remove non-historic stucco and awnings, repair the windows and doors, and more.


Before & After Photos from the Rehabilitation

Photographs & captions courtesy of Jerry Wade


Jerry Wade was also inspired by his other passion - music. Not only does Mad Paddle host live music every weekend, but the owner's impressive collection of vintage and notable electric guitars is featured along the walls of the building's upstairs event spaces.

In 2019, Wade's hard work was formally recognized when he was awarded the Madison Main Street Program's Innovator of the Year Award. At that award ceremony, someone remarked, "Jerry Wade renovated an underutilized historic building to become a downtown destination. He's created a buzz about Mad Paddle throughout the region - which we hope will last long into the future." Given Jerry's commitment to preservation and to the community, we, too, hope Mad Paddle is around for a long, long, time! Be sure to check it out, browse the menus, see a live performance, and see what all the buzz is about!

Thank you to owner Jerry Wade, local historian Betsy Lyman, and the Madison Main Street for their significant contribution to this article and for their photographs.

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