Even though Thom Doud, field operations manager for Controlled Demolition, said he was pleased the Clemson House implosion went perfectly, a lot of people seemed brokenhearted that it did.
At exactly 8:30 a.m. Sunday, a series of explosions ignited more than 150 pounds of nitroglycerin-based dynamite lodged in Clemson House, and the iconic Clemson building fell in a cloud of dust.
The explosions were incredibly loud but also very quick, and for a brief moment afterwards, the building stood perfectly still. Then it crumbled.
"It went exactly as planned," Doud said.
The explosions started on the building's north side and went all the way across toward Sikes Hall. Hundreds gathered atop a parking lot behind Douthit Hills to watch as the building began to collapse on the north end.
Several faces crumpled in unison with the building, and some watched with teary eyes as the explosions went off, and Clemson House appeared as if someone had given it a hard shove as it fell over into itself.
John Gouch, assistant director of media relations for Clemson, said months of planning, preparing and testing went into the success and safety of the implosion.
"They really do a lot of work ahead of time," Gouch said. "You get the impression they just come in and put some dynamite in and blow it up — but the engineering, the prep work is a lot more complex than I expected. I was really impressed with it."
Neuber Demolition and Environmental Services worked for the last several months to clear the building of its windows, interior partitions, stairwells and other materials that could potentially fly out of the exclusion zone set up around the demolition site, Doud said.
Seismic tests were also conducted to determine any effect the explosions would have on the integrity of surrounding structures, and an exclusion zone was set up to protect people nearby from dust, debris and the loudness of the explosions, Gouch said.
Last week, Controlled Demolition came in and drilled nearly 500 holes on the ground, third and fifth floors, which they filled with explosives used in the implosion. The objective, Doud said, was to get the building to fall at an angle that would make clean-up the easiest.
He compared the implosion to being tapped in the back of the knees while standing.
"We displace the concrete, deflect the rebar and let the weight of the structure bring it down," Doud said. "What we're concerned about is getting the structure down. We want to get as much breakage in as we can, and we try and keep the dust down."
The whole process took seconds and as the dust began to clear, Tillman Hall now peeked out over the hill where Clemson House once stood.
Sue Meehan, of Clemson, graduated from the university in 1985. Even though she hadn't gotten home from Saturday's ACC championship game until 2:45 a.m., she was still on campus early Sunday to see Clemson House's final moments.
"The Clemson House is one of those things you picture when you think of Clemson," Meehan said, pausing for a moment as tears welled in her eyes. "That building has been so many things to so many people."
When asked if she'd be sad to see its legacy come to an end, she choked back a little sob and laughed.
"I will," Meehan said. "Isn't that weird?"
Follow Georgie Silvarole on Twitter @gsilvarole, or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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