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LOOK OUT BELOW! The Smokestack Is Coming Down

It might not have been as dramatic as when the walls of Jericho tumbled down, but when Berea College President Larry Shinn struck the top of the 160-foot smokestack with a sledgehammer Tuesday, Oct. 10, and bricks rained down, it marked the end of an era in the college’s history. Its removal will also erase a landmark in the city’s skyline for more than 60 years.

President Shinn swings away at smokestack

The president said the view of the mountains from his lofty perch was beautiful, uninterrupted and thought provoking. “I felt I was touching some of Berea's history. Seventy-six years ago some mason laid the last brick on what in that day was a modern coal-fired heat plant. The smokestack was a symbol of that past.”

Shinn was strapped into safety gear by employees of Environmental Demolition Group, Covington, Ky., before stepping onto the towering crane lift that carried him and an EDG employee into the blue skies over the city while dozens of people watched from different vantage points around the campus.

The demolition of the structure, built in the 1930s, is part of the leveling of the entire old coal and gas-fired heat plant. It was recently replaced by a new high-efficiency and environmentally friendly central plant, which uses natural gas and provides heating and cooling needs for the entire campus.

According to Brian Marshall, EDG project manager, the smokestack will be removed from the top down using jackhammers and sledgehammers. The bricks and debris will chiefly fall inside the structure.

Shawn McGinness, EDG vice president, remarked, “We’ll probably be at it about another week before we get it down to the level where we can do machine wrecking (approximately 30 foot tall).” He seemed impressed with Shinn’s destructive abilities. “We’d probably have it done in two days with Larry. He was moving pretty good,” he joked.

Debris from the smokestack and old plant will be recycled for fill on the site, which has been targeted for the future green space. Some of the bricks will be re-used for a walkway to the Charles M. Hall science building. “The land will be contoured as much to its original state as possible and then planted in native grasses and plants. Our hope is to raise money from donors to build walkways, seating areas, and add lighting to make this area ‘The Fee Glade’ after our founder John G. Fee. It would be a place for students, faculty and staff to find quiet places for reading, reflecting and visiting with friends ….That is our dream.”

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