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Des Moines’ Midland Building added to National Register of Historic Places: Built in 1913, building is scheduled to undergo historic rehabilitation

5/16/2018

DES MOINES – Originally known as the Hippee Building, the Midland Building in Des Moines has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today’s announcement comes from the State Historic Preservation Office, which oversees the National Register of Historic Places program in Iowa in conjunction with the National Park Service. The State Historic Preservation Office is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

“We’re pleased the Midland Building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and we commend all the stakeholders who worked so hard on this successful nomination,” State Historian Laura Sadowsky said. “This recognition marks an important milestone for the Midland Building as it continues to preserve the legacy of its past for future generations of Iowans to enjoy.”

Built in 1913, the 12-story office building was named for Des Moines businessman George B. Hippee. He was president of the Iowa Loan & Trust Company, which owned the building and occupied it from 1914 to 1926.

The National Register nomination form emphasized the building’s history from 1913 through 1926, “the year the building was placed in service and the final year it housed its most significant occupant, the Iowa Loan & Trust Company.” The company was incorporated in 1872 and, due to its size, longevity and high profile, was the city’s best-known loan and trust company until it closed in December 1926.

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The nomination form also noted the building’s Beaux-Arts Classicism and Chicago Style architecture, which was largely defined by architect Louis Sullivan. The building has light-colored masonry with terracotta details, lavish ornamentation, and classically derived features such as fluted columns that support a fully articulated entablature and cornice. The style-defining elements were carried into the interior where a variety of Italian marbles and terrazzo floors adorned the professional office building.

When it was built, the Midland was touted by developers as “fireproof,” a common but exaggerated claim in the early 20th century trend of “skyscraper” construction that used new technological developments such as steel frames, terracotta tile, brick and concrete.

During this time, Des Moines also saw the construction of the six-story Flynn Building (1906), the 11-story Fleming Building (1907), the 10-story Hubbell Building (1913) and the 19-story Equitable Life Building (1924). The construction of these buildings represented a significant shift in both the construction practices and physical landscape in downtown Des Moines.

The Midland has been updated or altered several times in the past, most notably in 1952 when its original elevator cars were replaced. In 1985, some of its windows were replaced with historically inappropriate tilt-out windows, and a 2005 project was stopped mid-stream, leaving upper walls and ceilings exposed with temporary lighting and electrical wiring.

Despite the changes, the building’s historical significance and character as an early 20th century skyscraper in the Beaux-Arts style remains intact. The historic rehabilitation of the Midland Building is currently in the planning stages. The property will be converted for use as a hotel with guest rooms on the upper stories, plus a lobby, restaurant, and bar in the ground-floor storefronts.

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