Historians want Waterloo Wonder Bread plant saved - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Historians want Waterloo Wonder Bread plant saved

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Waterloo's Wonder Bread plant sits empty after Hostess closed it and 32 other bakeries following bankruptcy filings last month.  Now, there's a lot of discussion about the future of the Wonder Bread building itself in downtown Waterloo.

The Waterloo Wonder Bread plant was built back in 1928.  Right now, Hostess still owns the facility.  But before any buyer comes forward to take over the building, local historians are working to ensure at least part of the historical structure doesn't get demolished.

The sweet aromas of fresh baking bread no longer fill the air in downtown Waterloo, after the Wonder Bread plant closed its doors last month.  But local historians are hoping the nice smell is all that disappears.

"So many of the Waterloo historical buildings have been lost over the years, and so this is just one we'd like to try and keep and keep the facade, at least the facade of the building, going," said historical activist Ann Olsson.

Members of Waterloo's Historic Preservation Commission agree:  the city's reputation for tearing down old buildings is damaging.

"We're trying very hard to say these things have significant value, and therefore, we should try to preserve them.  Otherwise, pretty much the heritage of Waterloo gets lost," said Mary Potter, member of the Waterloo Historic Preservation Commission.

That's why the commission passed a resolution encouraging any future buyer or developer of the former factory to save as much of the structure as possible.

"For historic preservation, we're not concerned about the inside of the building.  Any changes at all could be made inside of that.  Even the outside we'd like it all to be saved, but if that's impossible for redevelopment, at least save as much as possible so the city retains the outside look of what the historic part of the building is," Olsson said.

Historians know it's expensive to maintain old buildings like the bread factory, but they insist the benefits that come with preserving pieces of the past are well worth the price.

"I think tourism is the most important thing.  People tend to go to places that say this is a historic property.  This is a town that has a lot of historic value.  Look at Galena, Illinois.  This is a place people go to because they love the buildings, they love the homes, and there's lots of interesting things to do.  And I think if we want to attract businesses, there has to be some little niche that we can fit into in order to make it attractive for people to come and visit," said Potter.

The Waterloo Historical Preservation Commission's resolution is not legally binding, but it's a step the board hopes will help keep the iconic Wonder Bread plant around for years to come.

There's no indication of when the Hostess building in Waterloo could be sold.  The company says it is currently entertaining offers from more than 100 potential buyers for its products, and selling properties will be a separate undertaking.

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