Preservation Magazine, Spring 2016

Timeline: Mill Suited

The Mill loft apartments in Old Town, Alexandria, VA as seen today

photo by: Josh Meister/Cooper Carry

From cotton to beer to spark plugs, the industrial property at 515 North Washington St. in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, has housed the manufacture of varied and eclectic products over the past 169 years.

Washington, D.C., real estate development company CAS Riegler purchased the property in 2014 and, with the help of architecture firm Cooper Carry, has transformed the interior into a community of 25 loft apartments known as The Mill. Here, we take a look at this 19th-century former factory’s unique history.

"The 71th REG. N.Y. At Alexandria, VA.” Image dated 1861. Cotton Factory in background

photo by: Alexandria Library/Special Collections


The four-story brick factory, containing two 30-horsepower steam engines that power 3,840 spindles and 124 looms, is constructed for the Mount Vernon Cotton Company.

Birds eye view of Alexandria, VA

photo by: Charles Magnus/Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division


The building is seized by the Union Army during the Civil War and serves as a jail for more than 1,000 prisoners until 1865.


Robert Portner Brewing Company purchases the space to use as a bottling house, replacing old plank flooring with concrete and adding an elevator tower at the southeast corner. The brewery was forced to close in 1916, at the onset of Prohibition.


Express Spark Plug Company of America assumes ownership of the factory and advertises “Be Good to Your Motor” with 6-foot-tall black lettering on the exterior.

Spark Plug Factory, view looking northeast, 1920s

photo by: Alexandria Library/Special Collections


John Loughran purchases the property from the Express Spark Plug Company and converts it into the Belle Haven Apartments. As part of the renovation, an elaborate portico, shutters, and dormer windows are added by architect A.B. Lowstuter.


The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) acquires the building, which serves as IACP’s headquarters until it is purchased by CAS Riegler 22 years later.

Interior of The Mill loft apartments in Old Town, Alexandria, VA

photo by: Josh Meister/Cooper Carry


Modern loft apartments featuring exposed brick and ironwork and varied floor plans are finished in November and available for lease. Though the interiors are remodeled, the original 2-foot-deep brick walls and iron structure are preserved.

Katharine Keane headshot

Katharine Keane is a former editorial assistant at Preservation Magazine. She enjoys getting lost in new cities, reading the plaques at museums, and discovering the next great restaurant.

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