Written by Alicia Leuba
After more than 10 years, the Wilde Building in Bloomfield, CT has gotten a new lease on life.
In 1999, CIGNA, a global health services company, proposed the demolition of the Wilde Building, a pioneering example of International Style architecture designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and completed in 1957. In 2010, the Wilde Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and CIGNA completed an estimated $59 million renovation of the building using federal rehabilitation tax credits. But this happy ending did not come without a long struggle.
This story can be told if you look at newspaper headings about the Wilde Building over the past decade. They read: “A Corporate Icon That Should Be Preserved,” by Robert Campbell (Hartford Courant, 2001); “Wilde Building: An Old Piece of Junk” by Laurence D. Cohen (Hartford Courant, 2001); “Save the Wilde” by Wendy Nicholas (Hartford Courant, 2002); and “Collision of Cultures Over a Building” by Jane Gordon (New York Times, 2005) to name but a few.
The entire CIGNA campus was listed on the Trust’s 2001 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Over many years, the Trust's Northeast Office worked with National Trust President Richard Moe to create a dialogue with CIGNA. We worked closely with the Campaign to Save Connecticut General, the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office and many others across the country to raise public awareness and generate support for this iconic building. Together we proposed alternatives, did economic feasibility studies, fought state legislation changes, provided information on historic tax credits and access to expert consultants, including the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. And we waited.
Time was on our side. CIGNA’s business needs changed. New leadership was willing to explore alternatives. The economy changed. A company that once stated that the Wilde Building had “outlived its usefulness” decided to stay in the building and rehabilitate it to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. Systems and interior office upgrades have ensured that this mid-century modern masterpiece will continue to serve its original purpose for many years to come.
“The Wilde Building represents one of Connecticut’s most important preservation success stories of the past decade,” writes the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information on the Wilde Building, click here.
Alicia Leuba is the director of programs at the Northeast Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.