If you have ever been to the east side of Madison, chances are you have noticed the historic Garver Feed Mill building. Located adjacent to the Olbrich Gardens, the brick building sat abandoned and dilapidated for many years before recently being given new life. Over the last few years, Garver Feed Mill was completely refurbished and is now a hub featuring local artisans, restaurants, wellness studios, retailers, events and so much more.

How much do you really know about the Mill, though? It turns out there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Garver Feed Mill has a fascinating history and has also become a new community staple not just for the neighborhood, but for the Midwest in general. In fact, the newly-revived space attracts over 250,000 visitors per year.

We love the Garver Feed Mill and what it’s brought to the larger Dane County area we call our second home. So we did some digging to learn everything we could about this iconic and vibrant space. And now we’re excited to share with you what we’ve learned. So, let’s dive right in!

1. A Sugary Sweet History

What we now call the Garver Feed Mill was originally constructed in 1906 for the U.S. Sugar Company. It was the largest factory in Madison at the time, serving as a sugar beet processing plant from 1906 to 1924. The site was said to process up to 500 tons of sugar beets per day! (Dwight Shrute would have loved a tour!) Locals even lovingly referred to the huge gothic building as the “Sugar Castle.” 

2. From Beets to Animal Feed

In 1929, James R. Garver – for whom the building was ultimately named – purchased the factory. With some remodeling, including lopping off the top two stories, he had it converted into an animal feed mill and granary. The mill played an important role in Madison’s agricultural history for decades before eventually closing its doors in 1997.

3. Abandoned and Alone

Garver Feed Mill as we know it today almost didn’t happen. The building sat empty for almost 20 years, accumulating an abundance of rubble, plant overgrowth and graffiti. The roof and walls were literally caving in, and after it suffered extensive damage from a 2001 fire, the site became a candidate for demolition. 

Many ideas of how to use the space were brainstormed over the years, but nothing came to fruition… until 2015. This is when the City of Madison partnered with Baum Revision to rehabilitate and repurpose the Mill as a hub for local food, events and businesses. The new Garver Feed Mill opened its doors in 2019.

4. Today’s Garver Feed Mill is a Foodie’s Delight

If you’re hungry and find yourself on the east side, head to Garver! Along with the constantly-evolving Garver Lounge, you can also find a hopping Ian’s Pizza (with all their epic options, including our favorite - Mac and Cheese!), Ledge Coffee Roasters and Calliope Ice Cream. Notice a theme - they’re all local!

And that’s just who's there permanently. That doesn’t even include the many revolving food-based events to which Garver plays regular host. 

5. Treat Yourself to More Than Just Food

In addition to all their food and beverage options, Garver Feed Mill is also an arts and wellness destination. Practice your flow with classes at Perennial Yoga. Book yourself a massage, facial, cleanse, or other wellness treatment at Kosa Ayurvedic Spa. And if you’re into the arts? Take a crafting class at Glitter Workshop or explore one of the rotating exhibits at Garver Canvas, a contemporary art gallery.

6. So Much Room for Activities

Garver Feed Mill hosts a number of public and private events throughout the year. From live music to festivals to cocktail classes, there is always something going on at Garver. 

And if you’re looking to say “I do,” the one-of-a-kind space has become a popular wedding venue. There are even florist and photographer vendors already on-site. The Mill’s event spaces can also be rented out for other non-wedding special events.

7. Back to Agricultural Roots with Farmers’ Market

From January through April, Garver Feed Mill hosts the Dane County Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning. As you might know, the beloved Dane County Farmers’ Market features Wisconsin-based vendors who all grow or make their own goods. Stop by to grab your favorite fresh fruits, veggies, baked goods, and of course, cheese curds. 

8. Garver Feed Mill Isn’t Just Awesome, It’s Award Winning

Garver Feed Mill and its partners have received numerous awards to date, including:
●    2020 Historic Restoration Award by the Wisconsin Historical Society
●    2020 Historic Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse from the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation
●    2020 WI AIA Merit Design Award by Wisconsin Architect Magazine
●    2020 Mixed Use Award of Merit by IIDA Southwest PRIDE Awards 2020
●    2020 Commercial Development Award "Best New Development or Renovation - Mixed Use: Garver Feed Mill" from In Business Magazine.
●    2021 Bronze Award by the Wisconsin Chapter of American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)

Plus, did you know that the building was added to the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places and to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017?

With all that in mind, we have a renewed appreciation for the Garver Feed Mill’s past, present, and future. We can’t wait to spend more time there exploring all it has to offer the community – coffee cup and pizza slice in hand!