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And the West is History: Smelter Smokestack Demolition – 1987

Construction spanned two years in 1880-81, and it stood for 106 years, but the Smelter Smokestack at the base of Smelter Mountain took just five seconds to be reduced to a large pile of bricks. Fifty pounds of dynamite were used. This compilation of photos documents that five seconds on April 21, 1987. This destruction of the large monument to Durango’s industrial past was not without significant controversy, however. A citizen’s group was formed to advocate for the preservation of the 180-foot-high structure that was purported to have remained perfectly upright during its lifetime. At its base, the walls of brick were 5 feet thick, but no one knew for sure exactly how much of a foundation it sat on. As the Department of Energy prepared to remove the surrounding tailings pile, it chose to remove the stack for safety reasons. It also had some low-level radiation contamination. Although the advocacy group addressed these concerns, ultimately, the cost and liability of maintaining the iconic structure from Durango’s beginning could not be overcome. Even after the demolition, the controversy continued for months. – Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum.org (Catalog Number: 17.18.7-16 from the La Plata County Historical Society Photo Collections)
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