A couple hours of cutting and a steady tug was all it took Aug. 16 to put four 60-foot towers on the ground at what used to be Mt. Morris' biggest industry.
A crew from Hutcherson Metal brought down the four towers that once recovered the solvent from the ink used for printing magazines and flyers at Quad/Graphics, Mt. Morris.
The plant, which a mainstay of the Mt. Morris economy for 113 years, closed its doors more than a year ago.
The last magazine rolled off the presses on May 13, 2011. The plant had employed more than 2,000 people in its heyday.
Hutcherson Metal, a Halls, Tenn., salvage company, was hired late last year by Quad/Graphics to recycle equipment from the printing plant and remove some other components, such as the towers. Salvage operations began in December.
Groups of interested neighbors and former plant employees watched Thursday as the salvage crew used a torch to first cut a yawning notch, called a "bird's mouth," in the front of each tower and then continued the cut around the backs.
The four towers were connected to each other by a catwalk at the top. Once the cuts were completed, a track hoe already hooked up to the catwalk by a cable, took over. A steady pull and the towers came down, slowly at first, and then hitting the ground with a thud and a cloud of dust.
Some spectators had questioned if the 60-foot towers would hit a nearby chain-link fence and a light pole when they came down.
"I don't see how they're going to miss that fence," said Chris Corcoran, who lives next door.
However, Plant Facility Manager Jeff Warren assured the onlookers that the salvage crew had measured the distance between the towers and the fence and pole.
The towers fell as planned, just short of both.
Jerry Stauffer, who worked as the plant's electrician for 26 years, said the three of the towers were erected in the 1970s.
"They came in on semis and then were set up by a crane," he said.
The fourth tower was added later as the plant expanded.
The towers, Stauffer said, part of the plant's environmental safety system, collecting solvent fumes from the ink.
The solvent, he explained, carried the ink to allow it to be applied to paper during the printing process.
Solvent fumes were suctioned off the presses into large ducts which carried it to the four towers.
Carbon in the towers absorbed the solvent, and once the carbon was filled to capacity, a steam process removed the solvent from the carbon, so that it could be stored in tanks and sold back to the ink manufacturers, Stauffer said.
"There were always three towers absorbing and one in steam mode when the plant was in operation," he said. "We sold one to two tanker loads of solvent a week back to the ink company."