DECATUR – As the sun rose Wednesday morning, parts of the Walrus Manufacturing Co. warehouse lay in ruins near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Wabash Avenue. By the afternoon, demolition crews had demolished the northwest corner of the four-story warehouse dating from the early 1900s.
The fate of the rest of the building remains uncertain.
“The roof is not in good condition, but the rest of the building is in fairly good condition, better than we expected,” said Kim Aukamp, ââdaughter of building owner John C. Ballog. , after consulting engineers. âSome walls need pretty quick attention. “
Decatur firefighters were called to the scene Tuesday afternoon with a report of an exterior wall collapse. The discovery led to road closures including Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Electricity to some 120 Ameren customers was also cut off when poles were damaged by falling debris during Wednesday’s demolition.
“They hope they can get to a stable area, so they don’t have to demolish the whole building,” Aukamp said.
With the future still uncertain, the owners hope to be able to remove some of the items currently stored in the four-story building.
âBut we don’t have big plans,â Aukamp said. âWe’ll just have to see how the building holds up. “
Near a busy train line
When the building’s wall began to collapse on Tuesday, a few items were seen hanging from the holes.
The building is a warehouse for office furniture and various items, including a few fire trucks. Repairs to the building will be more important than the building’s value, according to Aukamp.
âIn today’s market, buildings around town just don’t have much value,â she said. “We’re probably going to fix enough of them to be able to safely remove things from them.” “
The building is near a busy train line. As firefighters attended the scene Tuesday, four trains passed, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ohl.
“We had informed the railroad of what was going on, just so that they were aware,” he said. âBut we didn’t ask them to stop the rail traffic. We will do this if necessary.
Rail traffic was not in imminent danger, according to Ohl, due to the location of the structural damage. The broken pieces fall from the north side of the building. Trains run on the south side.
Decatur’s Director of Economic and Community Development Cordaryl “Pat” Patrick said the city’s first response is to make sure neighboring neighborhoods are protected and safe from falling debris. Since the damage was noticed, they have worked with the owner to secure the building.
âIt is disappointing to see a historic building in the town of Decatur fall into disrepair,â said Patrick.
âThe owner has been very cooperative and responsive so we believe this will be resolved in a timely manner,â said Patrick. âOur goal is to make sure this is done safely in a way that does not release environmental hazards into the atmosphere and the roads have reopened.
Built in 1904
On Tuesday, the Walrus Manufacturing building was listed as an active housing case, according to the city of Decatur’s code enforcement database. âIt is designed to allow the city to take further action on this private property if necessary,â said Patrick. âWe have staff on site who are currently working hand in hand with the owner, the demolition contractor and the engineers. “
In 2020, the building was ranked by the History of the Heartland as one of the âTop 8 Lists of Most Endangered Non-residential Structuresâ.
The structure was built in 1904. Robert Faries started the Walrus Manufacturing Company, building and installing equipment for soda fountains used in drugstores across the country.
By the 1950s the industry had changed, leading the Walrus Manufacturing Company to switch products, such as making coffins. After the closure of Walrus Manufacturing, the building was occupied by Cash Acme, the successor to AW Cash Valve.
Archives: Decatur’s Walrus Manufacturing Co.
Walrus Mfg Building. Co.
Union Station St. Louis Soda Fountain
Soda fountain in the TT Springer store
Morse code advertisement in Herald & Review
People’s Furniture Co.
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Walrus Manufacturing Co. 1906
Walrus Manufacturing Co. 1950
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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR