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Some Old Difficulties

Continuing the story of the demolition of the Gillender and Stevens Buildings, as preparation for constructing the Bankers Trust Building, the picture above shows the demo of Gillender roughly half complete. The facade and terra-cotta floors have been removed down to the tenth floor (of the original nineteen) and the steel demolition is in full swing above. The last picture from yesterday, dated May 19, 1910, did not have a derrick on top for the steel demo, so the one we see at the top here was erected during the four days that elapsed before this photo. Something to keep in mind: the column lengths stayed the same as the workers moved down the building, but their weight kept going up as the sections got bigger. The columns at the top of the building weighed less than a third as those at the bottom. So the derrick may have been necessary to safely maneuver the heavier steel.

Two other things are visible in the top photo. First, the Stevens Building behind Gillender is nearly gone at its Wall Street wing on the left, but still mostly intact on its Nassau Street wing on the right. Second, I mentioned yesterday that the sidewalk bridge covered the full width of both streets, You can see clearly here that the half of the bridge deck further from the demolition work is see-through. Given the materials available at the time, I think the see-through part may be chain-link fencing or something similar. Eight days later:

More of the same. There’s finally visible demo at the Nassau Street wing of Stevens. Two days after that:

The steel removal at Gillender has now made it short enough to expose the soon-to-be ghost of Stevens on the south wall of the Hanover Bank, the tall building on the right. That diagonal is a chimney extension, constructed with Hanover to keep the north chimney of Stevens operating as the taller building was constructed. Stevens and its chimney have been demolished out from under the extension. Finally, a week later:

All gone except the steel. Given the technology of the era – and based on what we can see – I think they disassembled the frame rather than cutting it apart. Portable torches were awkward then, and there were no hand-held electric saws that could realistically cut steel. But chiseling off the heads of rivets and punching them out of their holes was straight-forward.

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