Historical building collapses after decades of neglect

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DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — The former Walrus Manufacturing Company building at the corner of Wabash and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, suffered a structural collapse along its south wall on Tuesday.

Officials said the building fell victim after 117 years to a failing roof and decades of neglect. Emergency demolition of the building is expected to begin Wednesday.

The building was highlighted in August 2020 by History of the Heartland on the “Top Eight Most Endangered Non-residential Structures List”.

According to officials, Walrus Manufacturing was started by a successful entrepreneur, Robert Faries, in 1901. His company had explosive growth and quickly became one of Decatur’s leading companies. It manufactured and installed equipment for soda fountains. In 1904, the Walrus Manufacturing Company building was built in Decatur.

By 1950, bottled carbonated soft drinks had killed the soda fountain equipment business. Walrus had to find new markets and they moved into installing equipment for hospitals and laboratories where their experience with water controls was relevant. They also briefly dabbled in unrelated businesses, like coffin making, after acquiring the assets of Decatur Coffin Company.

When Walrus was liquidated, the building was briefly occupied by Cash Acme, the successor to A.W. Cash Valve, before that company relocated to Kansas.

According to Bret Robertson, Chairman of History of the Heartland, the building has been used as a storage facility since the second owner left in 1990.

“Personally, it’s one of my favorite buildings,” said Mr. Robertson. “It is a reminder of an industrial path that’s now gone. It really marked a great success for the community. I’ll miss seeing it and others will as well.”

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