MIDWEST CITY — A popular landmark has been erased from the Midwest City skyline.
It took less than two days for workers to dismantle the “Bomber” water tower near SE 29 and Mid-America Boulevard, across Interstate 40 from the main entrance to Tinker Air Force Base. The 160-foot steel structure, erected in 1947, served the city more than 60 years before being replaced by a sleeker, more efficient tower made of newer materials with a modern design.
Crews from a Michigan demolition company began early Monday to dissect the tower, using acetylene torches to dismantle it into sections that were lowered to the ground by a crane.
News quickly spread through the Atkinson Heights neighborhood, and residents stepped out of their homes to witness a piece of history being removed. Though residents have known for more than a year the tower was targeted for the scrap heap, many said they were sad when the tower's final days finally arrived. City leaders ordered the demolition after the new tower, located less than a quarter-mile to the east, became operational in 2010.
Bobbie Holland saw the tower every time she walked out the front door of her home on E Rickenbacker Avenue for the past 24 years. Her home is footsteps from the tower. Bobbie and her husband, Gene, have been Midwest City residents 51 years.
Monday morning, she had a prime view of the demolition as she sat in a glider swing.
“It's finally coming down. It will be missed by a lot of people,” Holland said as workers peeled off sections of the rusted dome.
As president of the neighborhood association, which includes about 400 homes, Holland has listened to neighbors share their memories of the structure, including older residents who admit to climbing the tower in their teens to paint girlfriends' names on the tower walls.
Holland's sadness is temporary. She says she understands the “price of progress.”
“For the continued growth of Midwest City, it had to come down,” she said.
She knows some of her neighbors wanted the tower to remain for sentimental reasons, but she supports the vision town leaders have for the future. Her home backs up to Town Center Plaza, the city's newest major retail development project.
‘It was definitely a landmark'
In September, Holland gathered in a nearby park with hundreds of fellow residents to say goodbye to the tower.
Pam French, 55, stood Monday in her driveway, taking pictures of the dismantling. Her eyes were fixated on the workers tethered to safety cables as they worked in special suits and helmets outfitted with cooling units to offer relief from the excessive heat.
“This is history,” French said. She grew up in the area and the tower holds special memories for her, but she realizes it has outlived its usefulness. Sentimental thoughts give way to reality when she admits “it's about time for it to come down.”
“It's kind of sad, but it's exciting, too,” French said. She is looking forward to seeing development where the tower once stood, and she's certain it will be a positive thing for the neighborhood.
Lilly Stubbs, 41, spent her teen years in the shadow of the tower and used it as a reference point when giving directions to her home.
“It was definitely a landmark,” Stubbs said as she stood alongside her father and Holland, gazing upward as demolition continued.
“I always wanted to climb it,” Stubbs said, but the fear of getting in trouble with her father dissuaded her from ever making the attempt.
The tower demolition was a sideshow for curious onlookers Monday. Many slowed their cars to watch or snap a photo. Others brought lawn chairs or sat beneath the shade of a tree. A man and woman sat in their car, eating pizza and looking out the windows in time to see a section of steel as it touched the ground.
Linda Farber called her husband at work as soon as she learned the tower was being taken apart. Farber and her husband are lifelong Midwest City residents and, for most of their lives, have lived near the tower. Her reaction to the demolition was lighthearted.
“After I told him the water tower was coming down today, I asked him if he would be able to find his way home tonight without it.”