Smokestack topples: Only one building left as demolition of textile mill nears completion

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The brick smokestack took an explosive jolt up its spine Friday then toppled north, away from the houses along Park Avenue.
Its collapse raised a cloud of dust that cleared quickly and, in those few seconds, one of the last vestiges of the 1896 Kesler Manufacturing Co. plant was gone.
Time on the clock: 12:56 p.m., May 1, 2009.
George Culver, owner of Applied Abatement Demolition of Kings Mountain, has been working since late February to tear down the textile mill buildings, salvage the wood, brick and concrete and clear what had been for more than a century the industrial center to this neighborhood off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue North and Park Avenue.
Several of the mill houses still stand nearby.
Most people knew the mill, vacant for several years, as Cannon Mills’ Plant No. 7.
Ownership of the property eventually passed as a gift to a nonprofit organization in Atlanta, and it contracted with Culver to clear the site.
Except for one remaining building which is scheduled to be pushed down today, the 12-acre site has become isolated stacks of timbers and bricks and two mountainous piles ó one of trash that will go to a landfill; the other, brick pieces that will be crushed, compacted and used for fill.
Culver said he plans to incorporate the handmade bricks from the square smokestack at his own home.
The smokestack rose above the site at least seven stories high. Culver judged it to be about 100 feet tall. Ivy encircled a middle section of the stack, fitted with lightning rods at the top.
Culver has demolished and reclaimed materials from 11 different mills, and this was the fourth smokestack he had to bring down, relying on Norris Construction of Burlington.
He said Norris set charges in at least 35 holes dug 5 feet deep ó part of a wedge pattern designed to make the stack fall away from Park Avenue.
Culver said the houses along Park Avenue were never in danger, and no one had to be evacuated.
The smokestack implosion attracted three television crews and a TV helicopter.
It was delayed almost an hour while mounds of dirt were built around the base of the stack to bury the charges.
Norris Construction actually brought down two things for the price of one, even though that wasn’t the plan.
As the brick stack fell northward, it also pushed over an old No. 6 fuel tank.
Culver hurried to a big shovel to push up the bottom of the tank so built-up sludge wouldn’t leak onto the ground.
Culver plans to donate the marble cornerstone from the original Kesler Manufacturing building to the city of Salisbury.
Historic Salisbury Foundation is trying to negotiate with Culver and find a vacant lot in the surrounding neighborhood for the mill’s former office, still standing along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.