Dynamite topples smokestack in Reading's old outlet district

READING, Pa. - A blast of dynamite has forever changed the skyline of Reading's old outlet district.

A 135-foot tall smokestack that towered above the site of the former Reading Outlet Center and the North Ninth Street neighborhood for decades came tumbling down in a matter of seconds Thursday morning.

"It was kinda cool watching it come down," said onlooker Deborah Corcoran.

The area around the smokestack was blocked off and evacuated, so about a dozen people gathered on the parking lot of the nearby Reading Station Outlet Center at North Sixth and Spring streets to watch the brick tower come down.

"I was amazed it came down as nice as it did," Corcoran said. "I was expecting parts of the other buildings to go with the vibrations and stuff because how old it was."

It's the first time the city has permitted a demolition of this kind. Ahead of the boom, streets surrounding the blast zone were shut down, and seismographs were positioned to monitor ground movement.

"It's a very stringent process at the state level as well as the municipal level to regulate these things," said Reading fire marshal Jeremy Searfoss.

The carefully controlled demolition, brought about with 70 pounds of dynamite, is part of an ongoing project to rehabilitate the once-bustling shopping area.

"l hate to see it go, but it has to be done," Corcoran said.

Corcoran's mother worked in the neighborhood in the 60s and 70s, when the property housed a knitting mill. She called it a part of her history. While the property sits in ruin, she's hopeful the land will again house something to be proud of.

"Yeah. I hope they put something decent in here that'll benefit the rest of the neighborhood," Corcoran said.

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