Watching the Towers Fall

Scott Tower Implosion

A couple of weeks ago I got a text from my nephew, Chip, stating that a prominent Greenville Landmark was going to meet its demise. The Scott Towers on Augusta Road were to be imploded. I knew I had to be there.

The towers were built in 1972, and have been a prominent building on the skyline for as long as I can remember. Apart from that, I really don’t know much about them. As long as I’ve known about the towers, they have served as housing for elderly and disabled citizens, but I’m not sure if that’s the original intent of the building.

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When Scott Towers was constructed, The Bell Tower Mall was still an active shopping area. New office buildings were being constructed. It was a hot growth area, along with Pleasantburg Drive near McAlister Square, and the Wade Hampton Mall near Bob Jones University. These were the Woodruff Roads and Haywood Roads of their day. Perhaps it was a good idea to provide housing like this near a vibrant shopping area.

Fast forward forty years, and Bell Tower Mall had closed and become the county office. The area has seen decline, but with the revitalization of Falls Park and the West End, things are looking up. However, Scott Towers just didn’t seem to be part of that revitalization. Studies showed that rehabilitating the building would not be cost effective. It was decided that the building should be torn down. The old tower would be replaced with individual housing. These were already under construction, and some were already occupied.

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Earlier in the week I scouted out the area. I was looking for the perfect vantage point from which to video the implosion. I also wanted to take a few last-minute photos of the building.

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The day arrived. I got up early this morning, loaded lots of cameras into my car, and headed toward Haynie Street and the rear of the building. I was able to find a perfect parking place within very short walking distance.

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I had a perfect view from my vantage point. I set up my GoPro to shoot video at 120 frames per second. At this rate, I could really slow things down without much loss. I set up my D7000 to shoot close up video through a zoom lens. I would have my D50, Panasonic Lumix, and iPhone for other random photos.

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Crowds began to gather. Others set up tripods and cameras. Someone said that there was a better view up the street. The “official” viewing area was on the other side of the building on Dunbar Street. I was happy where I was.

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The police were keeping everyone to the side of the street away from the building. At one point the police walked up to one of the houses very close to the building. It seems some residents had wandered out onto their porch, and they were only yards away from the building. I think he had a hard time convincing them to move indoors.

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An announcement was made describing what would happen in the next few minutes. Once again we were warned to stay on our side of the street. The siren sounded, and we heard a series of loud pops. There was another loud pop, and the building collapsed. There wasn’t the shock wave I remember from other large explosions. It seemed much more…controlled.

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Even so, Laura, Chip, and other friends reported hearing and feeling the blast. The weird thing was that WYFF’s “live” feed was lagging, so in some cases they heard the blast before seeing it on the streaming video.

Almost immediately we were overwhelmed with concrete dust. I was torn between taking photos of the oncoming dust cloud, and grabbing cameras and running. I stuck around for a couple of photos, then ran. Even so, I got overloaded with the dust. Even after showering and brushing my teeth, I still tasted the dust all day.

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I took the photos and videos and edited them down to one video. Here’s the final result, uploaded to YouTube:

Any day you want safely watch something this big go boom is a good day.

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