Along the Air Line... 2013 - United Distillers Demolition
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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2012 Renovations   United Distillers Labels



An engineer's report commissioned by the new property owner, Robert Gagnon of Colchester Construction, determined that Nat Semel's distillery chimney was unsafe.  Repairs would have cost over $75,000 - and leaving the chimney as is would have been a red flag to Mr. Gagnon's insurer.  With no likelihood that preservation of the historic structure could be funded by the town or the local historical society, there was no option but to demolish the chimney.  Having photographed the chimney inside and out for the past 11 years, I'm sad to see it go - but understand the economic realities. 

I'm also encouraged by the fine work Bob Gagnon has done to restore the former office building for use by his business.  The building was dangerous with much of the roof caved in and gaping holes in the walls.  It and the surrounding area were eyesores due to grafitti and trash.  All that is in the past.  While interior restoration remains to be done, a new roof and seamless brick repair have rendered the structure sound.  Brush removal, grading and chain link fence installation have transformed the property into productive space.  If I hadn't seen the change myself, I wouldn't have believed it possible.




January 3rd.  The United Distillers chimney was slated to come down today.  A few last views.












Some structural damage was visible at the crown, but...



...the most serious problems were at the base where the bottom two tiers of brick were badly deteriorated.



Manafort brought in this heavy duty "poker" for the demolition job, but...


 wasn't tall enough to do the job without endangering the operator.



January 7th.  A lower-tech approach, using an extensible platform and workers with jack hammers.









It was a tedious job, brick by brick, at low temps which caused the jackhammers to freeze up periodically.

































By noon on January 8th, the hand work was complete; the chimney low enough to be tackled by the big "poker".



In a matter of minutes, the chimney was reduced...






... to a compact pile of rubble.



...and even that was further reduced to smaller chunks.



A last look back at earlier days.












The vultures were gathering already in the spring of 2012.  (Actually, the chimney was a favorite perch from which they could easily take off and catch thermals to rise quickly.)