This morning, Patty and I got up early and walked down the road to watch the controlled demolition of the smokestack at Xcel’s High Bridge Plant. Thousands of people turned out to watch, either because they wanted to witness a little piece of St. Paul history in the making or because they just wanted to see something blow up. For the record, I came for both.
There’s been some interesting discussion in the local blogosphere (much of it here and here) over the last few days about whether the smokestack should be preserved as a kind of historical landmark, and also whether it adds some aesthetic charm to the St. Paul skyline. As someone who drives past the power plant at least twice a day, I can honestly see both sides of the argument — which, I realize, is now moot since they already blew it up anyway. But my hunch is that now that it’s gone, people really will miss it less than they think.
First of all, Xcel plans to tear down the rest of the facility and basically turn the whole area into a grass field. If it looks anything like the artist’s rendition, I think it will actually be quite pretty, and it will also give people traveling across the bridge the ability to enjoy the city’s southern and western skyline. Secondly, although the smokestack itself was interesting to look at, the rest of the facility is frankly a blight on the landscape. (Just take a look for yourself now that the smokestack is gone.)
Moreover — and I’m not trying to generate controversy here — but let’s not forget what that smokestack was there for. I’m pretty sure people had a less nostalgic view of that tower back when it was spewing several thousand tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, mercury and all kinds of other toxic crap for St. Paul kids to suck into their lungs every year (not to mention several million tons of annual carbon emissions). As a resident of the West Side, I’m pretty happy that I don’t have that stuff wafting into my windows every day. So, there.
But anyway, enough preaching. As to the demolition itself, I’ve also got a longer version of the video (below), and a few Flickr photos, here. Mine aren’t as good as Tony Webster’s or the ones on MPR’s News Cut blog though.
Here’s the longer version: