Wednesday, October 22, 2014 · 10:20 p.m.
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An artist rendering of the Interstate Building (later the Chattanooga State Office Building) before the 1950 construction. (Artist rendering: Contributed)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has announced their annual list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.

Included in the national list is the Chattanooga State Office Building on McCallie Avenue.

Members of the NTHP and representatives from the Development District and Cornerstones Inc. will make an official announcement at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The presentation will take place at Phillips Park on the corner of McCallie and Georgia avenues.

According to a release, the state of Tennessee acquired the six-story structure in 1981 and only recently transferred it to UTC in December 2013.

As of April, plans to demolish the building were still being broached, despite the need for housing at UTC.

According to a Times Free Press article, state officials green-lighted a $59 million student residence hall project; however, the Chattanooga State Office Building was not included, as preservationists had originally hoped.

With today’s announcement, Stephanie Meeks, president of the NTHP, hopes to encourage UTC to use the facility as opposed to demolishing it.

"Chattanooga has a real gem in this midcentury beauty," Meeks said. "The reuse of the State Office Building into a dormitory would be a win-win. The city has done a tremendous job of capitalizing on its natural and historic resources to revitalize its image and its economy ... UTC has an opportunity to make a strong statement about its commitment to the city of Chattanooga."

Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communication and marketing at UTC, said the university is still determining what to do with the building. 

"The university maintains our original plan to occupy the building on a temporary basis beginning this fall, " he said. "During this time, we will evaluate the structure and systems to determine how it can best be used by the university in the future. This may include renovation or razing to accommodate new construction. We do not have a specific plan or timeline at this point. We will be exploring our options."

Why save it?
Constructed in 1950 as the original location of the Interstate Life and Accident Company, the McCallie office complex was considered a "modern home" for the company at a cost of $1.75 million.

The figures portrayed in the bronze frieze represented the "sturdy mountain folk" present in this section of Tennessee. Ruby granite and grayish-white limestone also add to the image.

The bronze frieze is intended to represent the sturdy mountain character of Southeast Tennesseans. (Photo: Staff)

Inside, the building represents a "Mad Men"-era workplace, according to the NTHP. A large penthouse lounge and basement bowling alley were built for employees.

In 1973, plans were announced for an additional 65,000-square-foot wing, which increased the building space by 72 percent.

By 1980, Interstate was offering the building to the state of Tennessee for an $8 million price tag, but by 1981, that price was reduced to $5.85 million. For their purchase, the state received the building, 6.17 acres and a 5,100-square-foot warehouse.

"Today, the building is a showpiece in Chattanooga’s skyline," according to the NTHP. "[It] symbolizes the past strength of the insurance industry while contributing to the city’s distinctive identity."

Updated @ 10:17 a.m. on 6/24/14 to correct a factual error: Stephanie's last name is Meeks, not Meek, as originally reported. 

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