Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

07/11/2010

The End of a Publishing Giant’s Edifice



Todays post is about a slice of publishing history…Remember the very popular Collier’s Magazine (a weekly), Woman’s Home Companion, Country Home, etc., etc. I do! Damn, I’m getting old!

These magazines, and others, were published by the Crowell-Collier Publishing Co. that folded in 1956 after becoming one of the world’s largest. Crowell-Collier operated (separately and merged) from approx. 1880 to 1956 and published 20 million periodical monthly in it’s heyday!

Now, the 917,000 SF, city block building that was built by and housed this publishing giant on High Street in Springfield, Ohio is also on it’s deathbed.

This report is from Jessica Holbrook, Staff Writer for the Springfield News-Sun:

Last week, a structural engineering report said the continued deterioration of the Crowell-Collier building posed a “serious and ongoing concern,” but the local landmark wasn’t always an eyesore.

Until 1956, the 917,000-square-foot complex housed the Crowell-Collier Publishing Co. The publishing house was best known for their magazines — “Collier’s Weekly,” “Woman’s Home Companion,” “Farm and Fireside” (later “Country Home”) and “The American Magazine” — and during its heyday in the 1940s was producing about 20 million periodicals every month.

The structure, which today fills a downtown city block, started in 1880 as a three-story building on the corner of High Street. The company continued growing in size and circulation throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, becoming one of the biggest publishing companies in the world. In 1938, a $1.5 million expansion brought the structure to its current size.

The company laid off 2,275 local workers when it folded in December 1956.

The building changed hands several times following the company’s closure and was bought by its current owner, Harry Denune, in December 1972. Denune has since used the building for his company, Dixie Distributing, a motorcycle-parts distribution business. While there have been suggestions on how to use the building — like a 1999 plan to convert it into low-income housing apartments — they have all fallen through.

About three-fourths of the building is currently being used for personal storage by Denune, said Nick Heimlich, assistant chief and fire marshal for the Springfield Fire Rescue Division.

On May 10, 1999, a large fire struck the building, burning for more than seven hours. The fire caused little structural damage to the building, but Denune was required to update the building’s sprinkler system.

The sprinkler system remains a concern for the fire department, which continues to check on the building, Heimlich said.

According to a structural engineer’s report from Jezerinac Geers & Associates, the building’s deterioration is significant but not unexpected in an old building. The outside walls of the building are made of brick and limestone, two materials that are negatively affected by weather and moisture over time. The structure was also constructed using now outdated building methods, which has contributed to cracking and shifting on the outside walls, the report said.

The report suggested razing the buildings, because repairs to bring the structure in line with Ohio Building Code and allow it to be used in another capacity, would be more expensive than just demolishing the complex and building new structures.

The city does not have an estimate of how much it would cost to demolish the building, because the structure is filled with Denune’s personal items said Shannon Meadows, Community Development director.

Any estimate would have to include the cost of removing the building’s contents, she said.

The building also holds significance for many people in the community, so making a decision about its future can be difficult, Heimlich said.

“I know a lot of folks with memories of that building, but those folks are fading as time moves forward,” he said. “I think our connection with the building is changing as time goes on.”

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