On Thursday, the partial demolition got started for the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, located off the B-Line Trail and 7th Street.
Two workers in a metal cage suspended from a crane first removed the topmost metal reinforcement band from around the stack, which they lowered to the ground.
With the metal band out of the way, they used a hand-held power tool to bust up bits of the masonry and shoved loosened bricks over into the hollow interior of the stack.
The work circled the smokestack counterclockwise (east-to-north-to-west-to-south). By the end of Thursday, the first of the iconic vertical letters had disappeared against partly cloudy blue skies. That meant the smokestack would, at least overnight, read “OHNSON’S.”
While workers chipped away at the top of the smokestack, a red-tailed hawk kept watch two blocks east, on top of the antenna affixed to the roof of Monroe County’s Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center.
When the work on the smokestack is done, none of the letters will remain, because they are all above the 60-foot mark. The reduction of the 140-foot smokestack down to 60 feet has been ordered by Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, because an engineering study determined that the smokestack is structurally unsound.
The metal reinforcement bands that the two workers removed on Thursday are a testament to the fact that the unstable character of the historic smokestack has been known for a few decades.
The Johnson’s Creamery building, which is now its own local historic district, is owned by Peerless Development.
Peerless has a request pending in front of the city council for the vacation of an east-west alley on the site. The alley vacation is a hurdle that has to be cleared in order for Peerless to build a 51-unit apartment complex north of the old creamery building, right next to the B-Line Trail, off 7th Street.
Part of the proposed building would sit in what is currently public right-of-way. Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the new development in October 2021, but made the approval contingent on getting approval for the alley vacation from the city council.
The most recent proposal from Peerless is to effectively “move” the alley a bit southward. That would entail vacating the current location and re-platting the parcel to include a new dedicated right-of-way.
Photos (Aug. 25, 2022)