NARC smoke stack falls

Photo by Rick Harris

Demolition ends 75 years of history, marks new beginning to property
By Thomas Wilson
A visible reminder of Elizabethton's industrial past and the South's now extinct textile industry fell to dust in dramatic fashion on Wednesday afternoon.
The 250-foot smoke stack of the North American Rayon Corp.'s former power plant was demolished Wednesday afternoon after towering over West Elk Avenue for 75 years.
"That's just how I wanted it!" declared Ben Griffin with Gerard Chimney Company after watching the smoke stack collapse.
The demolition marks the beginning of what is expected to be a new footprint on the former North American Rayon Corp. property.
In a prepared statement issued by North American Fibers, Inc. President and CEO Charles K. Green, the decision to demolish the power house stack came as a result of NAF vacating the West Elk Avenue facility.
"I hate to see it go, but it has deteriorated so bad," said Green, who watched the stack fall along with a smattering of onlookers and public safety personnel. Green added removal of the stack would also be prudent to public safety concerns with the future development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter store on the NARC property. The retail behemoth paid more than $2.8 million for a 24.57-acre tract on the NARC campus to develop a supercenter store in May.
The NAF is constructing a new warehousing facility in the Tri-County Industrial Park located in Piney Flats. A portion of chain-link fence that previously encircled the NARC property along West Elk has also been removed by North American Research and Development company for use at the Piney Flats plant, Green said.
Green also said a Memphis-based retailing company had optioned a portion of property on NARC to construct additional retail development. "All they do is follow Wal-Mart around," Green said. Surveyors have also been sizing up other property near the North American Corp. campus for other potential retail development.
Based in St. Louis, Mo., a Gerard demolition team removed brick around the base of the smoke stack and burned several wood timbers around the bottom of the stack. The crackle of burning wood could be heard a few hundred feet away from the smoke stack. At 3:20 p.m., the smoke stack leaned, then plummeted down, brick crumbling at its base before it fell at an angle away from the former NARC power plant building. The smoke stack did not damage the power plant, which will remain standing, Green said.
The collapse scattered four-hole and seven-hole brick for several hundred feet. Green said the company planned to use the white tile inlaid in several bricks to create the white NARC acronym at the company's Piney Flats location.
Gerard Chimney specializes in demolition of reinforced concrete, radial and common brick chimneys, and steel stacks. Green said the company had done structural assessment on the smoke stack roughly 35 years ago.
The smoke stack was built in 1927 when construction of the American Glanzstoff Corp. rayon manufacturing operation began in Elizabethton. When it was constructed, the smoke stack bore the name Glanzstoff -- German word meaning "bright material" -- vertically tiled on the brick before the NARC acronym replaced it.
The Glanzstoff company followed American Bemberg Corp.'s foray into Elizabethton. American Bemberg began rayon production in Oct. 1926. The city's rayon plants employed thousands of Elizabethton residents during their heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. American Glanzstoff later became North American Rayon Corp., underwent an ownership change to Beunit Fibers and eventually became North American Fibers, Inc.