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State Farm’s Art Deco former headquarters at risk of demolition

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It served as the insurance giant’s headquarters from 1929 to 1972

The State Farm insurance building, a brown Art Deco structure, in Bloomington, Indiana. Photo by A mcmurray/Wikicommons

Cities are not sentimental. When old buildings become vacant and costly to maintain, more often than not, they’re torn down. Case in point: the State Farm Building in Bloomington, Illinois. The Art Deco building, which served as the insurance giant’s headquarters from 1929 to 1972, is facing the wrecking ball after the sale of the building fell through.

Designed by Bloomington architects Archie Schaeffer and Phillip Hooton, the 13-story building was once the tallest structure between St. Louis and Chicago, according to Bloomington newspaper The Pantograph. Its sturdy brick facade featured ornamental flourishes like carved stone cornices and four terra cotta corn maidens that were eventually removed for safety reasons.

Over the years, State Farm gradually moved its operations out of the elegant building, which has sat vacant since 2018. The company started looking for potential buyers for the 200,000-square-foot building, but after a promising developer fell through earlier this summer, plans to demolish the landmark have resurfaced.

“We secured a national search firm, reviewed many proposals, accommodated several tours of the property, and were open to all inquiries,” State Farm spokesperson Gina Morss-Fischer told NPR affiliate WGLT. “It is a very large building and it’s not uncommon for this to happen in complex real estate deals. With a sale not materializing, the continued costs of maintaining a building of that size and the impacts on downtown with it remaining vacant without interest, this was the most viable option.”

It’s a tale as old as architecture—a big building, no longer useful in its original purpose, is torn down instead of reused. Preservationists are at work though, gathering signatures for a petition to stop the demolition. In the meantime, check out some of the best adaptive reuse projects that have breathed new life into old buildings.