Photos used with written permission from Janet WagnerBoth the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News featured the story, KOA radio carried the broadcast live and a score of airplanes flew overhead. An estimated 100,000 people gathered near the site while an additional 250,000 watched from rooftops and ridges all over the city. The occasion was the demolition of the Grant Smelter smokestack, a 350-foot remnant of Denver's glory days of mining and smelting.
The giant chimney was built in 1892, part of the expansion of Denver's largest smelter, the Omaha and Grant. The stack was the tallest structure in the region and a symbol of the city's largest industry.
A year after the completion of the chimney, the nation experienced a depression that hit mining and smelting hard. Changes in technology, the depletion of rich ores and the long, violent labor strike of 1903 resulted in the closing of the smelter, leaving the massive plant and stack.
The smelter was dismantled until only the enormous smokestack remained, and it became a playground for neighborhood children who rode their bikes in and out and dared each other to climb the steep walls. Issues of safety and economics eventually dictated the that the stack would be demolished.
Sunday, February 26, 1950, was the day selected for the demolition. Denver Mayor Quigg Newton, politicians and newspapermen made speeches eulogizing the structure as most of Denver's population waited. There was delay after delay until 5:00 pm when five blasts, each two seconds apart, exploded in the base of the 7000-ton tower. Incredibly, nothing happened. When three more blasts were detonated, a million bricks crashed to earth and a blinding cloud of dust enveloped officials and spectators. It took more dynamite on the following day to finish the job. Denver had shed a piece of its industrial past and, in 1952, constructed the Denver Coliseum on the spot.
Photos of the stack courtesy of Janet Wagner