Additional dialogue on the fate of the Staley Pump House is encouraged
A century after it was built, the Staley Pump House may be demolished later this year. In October 2019, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers issued a Memorandum of Agreement associated with an application from Tate & Lyle (the owners of the structure) seeking approval to demolish the Staley Pump House.
Since it was announced that the Pump House may be demolished, a new organization (Save the Pump House) has been formed, and I have received a significant amount of correspondence from individuals in Decatur and throughout the country expressing their opposition to the demolition.
The city council plays a limited role in these types of decisions. The Staley Pump House is privately owned and it is a decision for the building’s owner to make. With that said, I strongly encourage dialogue between Tate & Lyle and the Save the Pump House organization as there may be a viable pathway to preservation that is beneficial to all parties and protects taxpayers from paying any costs.
As reported in the Herald & Review, in recent years, the city approached the company about demolition due to safety concerns such as concrete dropping from the structure. While there may be current safety concerns, it appears the concerns can be mitigated through restoration. According to Stephen Kelly, a Historic Preservation Specialist, “The Staley Pump House could easily be rehabilitated using simple and well-known construction techniques.”
The Staley Pump House has significant historical and architectural importance. In the last 100 years, Decatur has become a global agribusiness leader and the prosperity of the city is intertwined with Lake Decatur and its Pump House. According to Mr. Kelly, “The Staley Pump House is an early and rather fine example of reinforced concrete used to create architectural expression.” Similar examples are National Historic Landmarks.
From my perspective, even if the Pump House is never fully restored, a structurally safe building with an improved exterior supported by private dollars is better for Decatur than no Pump House at all. Like the Transfer House, which is a symbol of Decatur and its downtown, there may be no better symbol of Lake Decatur and the prosperity that this water source has provided than the Staley Pump House.