New State Architect Unconvinced Cordell Hull Has ‘Historical Value’

Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

The Cordell Hull building currently houses offices for the Department of Children’s Services and the Tennessee Attorney General. Both departments are scheduled to move. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

The Tennessee Building Commission named a new state architect Thursday, and one of his first big tasks is deciding whether to tear down the 10-story Cordell Hull office building beside the capitol. At this point, he’s not convinced it has much historical significance.

Real estate consultant Jones Lang LaSalle determined that the 60-year-old complex had fallen into such disrepair, it would be cheaper to tear it down and build something entirely new.

“The argument that I’ve heard the historical commissions make is that it’s a good example of the type of architecture that was built at the time, which is true,” newly-named state architect Peter Heimbach said. “But that still doesn’t answer the question of whether it gives it historical value, and what that value is.”

The original demolition decision is now being reviewed by Centric Architects of Nashville. The same firm oversaw a 2003 restoration of the Tennessee House and Senate chambers in the capitol building. Its report is expected by the first of the year.

Also Thursday, the head of the state’s real estate division said he still thinks the best option is demolishing Cordell Hull.

“We still feel that it’s in the best interest of the state,” General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby told reporters after a budget hearing.

Oglesby says the fate of Cordell Hull may ultimately be left to the General Assembly.

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