It took months to prepare for the demolition of a Fort Worth high rise, but only took 10 seconds to see the building fall to pieces. A Dallas Demolition crew in a parking lot about 100 feet away from Fort Worth’s Westchester Plaza pushed the button at 8 a.m. Sunday to set off nearly 300 pounds of dynamite installed throughout the skeleton frame.
A loud rumble echoed through the streets, which were lined by some onlookers. “I was shocked at the sound. You think of the blast going off, but you could feel it… it was louder than fireworks to me,” said Bob Haslam, a Fort Worth resident. It took just seconds for the building to collapse into its own footprint turning the 12 story structure into 17,000 tons of rubble. “I didn’t expect it to be a process like it was. it was so loud,” said Anna Leone, a Fort Worth resident.
The clean-up was fast as street sweepers and leaf blowers took to the streets immediately to clear the dust.
“It’s an experience unlike any other, especially in person. Think of thunder going off and feeling it in your chest,” said Sunny Lohden with Dallas Demolition. The streets were reopened within two hours, but the debris will take about six weeks to remove.
On Saturday, in the hours leading up to the moment months in the making, many stopped by to see Westchester intact one last time. “It was the place to be, because you see a high rise and there were very few high rises around here so it was the place to live for sure,” said Bill Jensen. But even several decades back when Jensen’s soon-to-be bride was scouting it out as a place to call home, Jensen said the once luxurious apartments felt tired.
Not long after, the property was converted into assisted living facility. LaTonne Stout’s program for the deaf moved in to occupy a floor during September of 1989. “All of the many, many lives of the deaf and deaf blind that have lived in that building. I can just think of the most wonderful stories,” said Stout.
But as the building aged, so did its reputation. While Stout shed tears thinking about the end of Westchester, Sheila Worthey said she was glad to see it go.
At 8 a.m. Sunday morning a Dallas Demolition crew in a parking lot about 100 feet away from Fort Worth’s Westchester Plaza pushed the button to set off nearly 300 pounds of dynamite installed throughout the now skeleton frame. “It’s kind of bittersweet really. To see it come down. There are a lot of memories here, but it’s time for it to go,” said Worthey. Worthey’s son, who called Westchester Plaza home for 17 years, sat in a nearby parking lot with her Sunday morning to watch the building come down where they say too many people were treated poorly.
Lohden says several nearby buildings have been draped with fabric or had windows covered with plastic or foam out of an abundance of caution. He said no other property should be disturbed including several nearby historic homes. “We’ve had engineers out here during the studies monitoring seismic activity and it’s at a minimum,” said Lohden.
By Allie Spillyards and Lexie Houghtaling NBCDFW