Baltimore industrialist William E. Hooper built Meadow Mill in 1877 during one of the most prosperous periods for industry in the Jones Falls Valley. Designed by architect Reuben Gladfelter, the structure represents the finest of Baltimore mill design. The striking belfry, landscaped paths, and tidy gardens all signaled Hooper’s prominence among business leaders.
Over the next century, workers at Meadow Mill manufactured twine, lamp wicks, cotton duck (a heavy canvas used primarily for ship sails), and, when during the building’s time as a London Fog factory, raincoats. When the building was new, Meadow Mill was one of four factories comprising Hooper’s Woodberry Manufacturing Company, including Mt. Washington Mill, Woodberry Mill, Clipper Mill and Park Mill. In 1899, the mill became part of the Mt. Vernon-Woodberry Cotton Duck Company, a textile empire that manufactured as much as eighty percent of the world's cotton duck.
Entire families worked long hours to make ends meet. In 1880, children under the age of fifteen made up a quarter of the mill’s workforce. After 1900, the state began to enforce child labor laws that required permits for children under fifteen years old, but children could still expect to work twelve hour shifts for little pay, and at the sacrifice of an education. In 1906, thirty-five girls with no union leader or organization walked out of Meadow Mill demanding a pay increase. Fifty bobbin boys followed the girls out on strike. In the end, the girls' received a raise from fourteen dollars to sixteen dollars a month. The boys received nothing. Their fathers, seeing their boys out of work and not making any money, scolded them and sent them back to work.
By 1915, the Mt. Vernon-Woodberry Cotton Duck Company broke apart and was reestablished as Mt. Vernon-Woodberry Mills. The new company controlled mills in Hampden-Woodberry, South Carolina and Alabama. Production boomed during World War I but, by the 1920s, the company began shifting its operations to the South where wages were low and workers less organized. Meadow Mill continued operations through the Depression then boosted production again during World War II to fill military commissions for canvas. Following the war, the company converted the mill for synthetic textile production, which required sealing the windows and installing air conditioning to regulate temperature and humidity.
In 1960, Meadow Mill was sold to Londontown Manufacturing Company, the makers of London Fog Raincoats. Company founder Israel Meyers started in the outerwear business in the 1920s and popularized military-style trench coats for civilians. London Fog went on to become the leading men's raincoat manufacturer of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1978, the Sun referred to Baltimore as the “nation's raincoat capital,” reporting that Londontown employed 1,500 people in the city including 600 at the Meadow Mill plant. Londontown also continued the textile manufacturing tradition in the building, making proprietary polyester-cotton blends.
In 1872, Hurricane Agnes hit and flooded the factory causing $148,000 in damages. The company's signature raincoats could be found floating down the torrent of the Jones Falls. In 1976, the company was bought by Interco, a conglomerate based in St. Louis. In 1988, the Baltimore Economic Development Corp. struck a deal to move the London Fog factory from Meadow Mill to the Park Circle Business Park in northwest Baltimore. The company closed the Meadow Mill factory and sold the building to developer Himmelrich Associates. The new owners adapted the building for a wide mix of uses including offices, a gym, a restaurant, and a bakery.
As for London Fog, the company struggled through the 1990s. Interco filed for bankruptcy in 1991. The company renamed London Fog Inc. and tried opening its own retail locations, which ended up angering the company's biggest customers—department stores. By 1995, London Fog had shuttered five of its Baltimore area factories and shifted production overseas. In 1997, London Fog announced plans to close its last U.S. factory in northwest Baltimore, citing competition from cheaper overseas labor. Two years later, London Fog filed for bankruptcy protection. Founder Israel Meyers died the same year.