Historic smoke stack comes down!
Posted on September 21, 2012

View Photos: See the progression of the smoke stack removal

Last rites for Anna Jaques' signature smokestack

Newburyport Daily News

NEWBURYPORT — Brick by brick, a roughly 90-foot-tall piece of history began tumbling down yesterday as workers took to deconstructing Anna Jaques Hospital’s smokestack.

The structure, which dates to the 1930s, had been dormant for months after the installation of the hospital’s new power plant as part of a $15.2 million renovation project, which included a new 18-unit patient wing and outpatient entryway.

Although the smokestack’s demolition obliterates an iconic part of the hospital known to generations of staff members and patients, the structure no longer served a purpose and its removal will make the outpatient entryway more inviting, according to Anna Jaques President Delia O’Connor.

“I think when they see the new version, they’ll be very pleased,” O’Connor said.

This is the last of three major capital projects supported by the Your Hospital: The Campaign for Anna Jaques that raised $6.5 million.

While the new wing is essentially complete with a grand opening held last week, the unit, which features single-patient rooms, won’t welcome its first patients until at least late October or early November. O’Connor said the state Department of Public Health must give final approval and due to a long waiting list, inspectors aren’t expected until then.

Renovations at Anna Jaques began in May 2011 and immediately drew controversy when union members from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 began picketing outside the hospital and at locations across the city. The union members decried the hospital’s hiring of non-union workers and began a vigorous anti-hospital campaign that included a 9-foot-tall inflatable rat and an airplane dragging an anti-Anna Jaques banner high above the city.

Removal of the smokestack is expected to take a few days. Yesterday, workers in a large basket crane began dismantling the crown of the stack, chiseling off a few bricks at a time. O’Connor said the slow, controlled destruction was deemed the best strategy over quickly chopping down the structure due to the fact that it had burned fuel oil for decades and the risk of spreading oil remnants inside the stack was too great.

The first brick that fell was scooped up by an Anna Jaques Hospital staff member and taken to the administration office, where it will remain. During the day, administrators, including O’Connor, looked out their windows and took photos of the project.

The area around the smokestack was fenced off weeks ago, signaling its days were numbered, Danielle Perry, vice president of marketing and public relations, said.

“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Perry added.

The sight drew much attention from patients and staff walking by, as well as from a nearby crew providing valet parking service.

“It’s like the end of an era,” valet Byron West said.

West said he and his coworker began taking photos of the deconstruction yesterday morning and will continue to do so in an effort to document the entire endeavor.

“It’s interesting how they’re doing it,” West said.

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