Nelson Factory


  • LOCATION: 600 Troy Road (Route 159), Edwardsville, Madison County
  • STATUS: Saved
  • BUILT: 1895
  • SITE TYPE: Industrial, Factory
  • GEOGRAPHY: Downstate
  • OWNER AT TIME OF LISTING: Institution, University
  • THREAT AT TIME OF LISTING: Vacancy and deterioration, vandalism
  • CURRENT USE: Educational Institution
  • TAKE ACTION: Visit

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Historic Significance

The brick industrial buildings that make up the Nelson Factory in Edwardsville were constructed in 1895 for the N.O. Nelson Manufacturing Company, creator of plumbing fixtures. Built by Industrialist N.O. Nelson, the five-acre site was meant to serve as a 19th-century prototype of a worker-oriented industrial village. With this complex, Nelson aimed to improve the living conditions and educational status of his employees and their families, also creating the nearby Leclaire Village residential area, as well as the Leclaire School. Upon its completion, the Nelson Factory was touted as “the ideal perfection of buildings for man to labor” by Progressive-era reporter Nelly Bly.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threat at Time of Listing - 1999

In 1948, the Nelson Company was sold to Wagner Electric Corporation, which subsequently closed in 1957. The site then sold to Southern Illinois University, which used the buildings as classroom facilities, libraries and offices. Unfortunately, by the 1990s, use of the site was intermittent at best and deterioration left the buildings in a perilous condition. In 1999, Landmarks Illinois included the unoccupied Nelson Factory in its list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Preservation Efforts

The same year Landmarks Illinois highlighted the Nelson Factory on its Most Endangered list, the property was deeded to Lewis and Clark Community College for use as a branch campus of the community college. The college undertook a multi-year redevelopment of the property, keeping intact the buildings’ red brick façades and the multitude of arch-shaped windows and skylights— legacies of Nelson’s aim to improve the working conditions of his employees with light and fresh air. The project was completed as a unique partnership between a number of educational institutions: Lewis and Clark Community College, Edwardsville High School and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. After three phases of projects that completed in 2007, the Nelson Factory now has a new life as the N.O. Nelson Campus, serving Lewis and Clark Community College students, Edwardsville High School students and SIUE engineering students. The facilities offer numerous classrooms and lecture halls, event spaces, science and technology labs and administration offices. An example to educational institutions throughout Illinois, Lewis and Clark Community College’s Nelson Campus succeeded in increasing educational opportunities for students, forging new and innovative partnerships and saving a place that matters to the community.

“Lewis and Clark’s repurposing of the N.O. Nelson Plumbing Manufacturing facility as a comprehensive community college campus has proven to be one of the most dramatic and effective examples of how to redesign historically significant, endangered facilities and make them truly valuable in service to the public.” – Dr. Dale Chapman, President, Lewis and Clark Community College.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Support our advocacy

Be a voice for the future of our communities by supporting Landmarks Illinois. Our work enhances communities, empowers citizens, promotes local economic development and offers environmentally sound solutions.

Become A Member