published Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Chattanooga's state building is one of nation’s most endangered historic places

ENDANGERED STRUCTURES

Battle Mountain Sanitarium – Hot Springs, S.D.

Bay Harbor’s East Island – Miami-Dade County, Fla.

Chattanooga State Office Building – Chattanooga

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spring House – Tallahassee, Fla.

Historic Wintersburg – Huntington Beach, Calif.

Mokuaikaua Church – Kailua Village, Kona, Hawaii

Music Hall – Cincinnati, Ohio

The Palisades – Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Palladium Building – St. Louis, Mo.

Shockoe Bottom – Richmond, Va.

Union Terminal – Cincinnati, Ohio

Source: National Trust for Historic Preservation

  • photo
    The former state of Tennessee Chattanooga State Office Building is located at 540 McCalie Ave. UTC now owns the building, which is listed as one of 11 endangered architecture sites across the U.S.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

The former Chattanooga State Office Building on McCallie Avenue is one of the nation’s 11 most endangered historic places, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

But the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which owns the mostly vacant, seven-story building, says it may demolish it.

“We’re really hoping this will help spur the university to consider reuse possibilities for that property as opposed to demolition,” said Erica Stewart, the national trust’s manager of public affairs.

The trust is hosting a news conference at 10 a.m. today in Phillips Park at the corner of McCallie and Georgia avenues to announce the local piece of its 2014 list.

The building at 540 McCallie Ave. was erected in 1954 by the Interstate Life Insurance Co.

UTC officials say they’re keeping their options open.

“The university maintains our original plan to occupy the building on a temporary basis beginning this fall,” said Chuck Cantrell, UTC’s associate vice chancellor of marketing and communication. “This may include renovation or razing to accommodate new construction.”

Any building 50 years old or older could be considered historic, but what makes this building special is the “extraordinary” materials that have gone into it, said Melissa Mortimer with the Southeast Tennessee Development District.

The building’s entire bottom is a ruby granite, and the top is gray limestone done in the midcentury modern architectural style, she said. And the bronze frieze above the doorway on McCallie Avenue is original art by a Tennessee sculptor in its original location, Mortimer said.

She said the building has architectural integrity on the exterior representing the 1950’s modern style that again is popular.

Nearly 400 state employees vacated the building this year, and consultants have estimated it would cost $8.49 million to fix it, primarily because of outdated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

“If you think about how much waste would be caused by demolishing the building, there [are] just so many benefits to reusing it and saving it,” Mortimer said.

Stewart said more than 250 sites have been on the national trust’s list over its 27-year history, and in that time only a handful of listed sites have been lost.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com at 757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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