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updated: 9/26/2012 2:19 PM

Milk Pail's leaning water tower felled in E. Dundee

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  • Able Contractors takes down the 40,000-gallon water tower that supplied pressure for the old fire sprinkler system at the Milk Pail Restaurant complex near East Dundee. The 120-foot-tall tower was built in 1952 and was in operation until 1992.

       Able Contractors takes down the 40,000-gallon water tower that supplied pressure for the old fire sprinkler system at the Milk Pail Restaurant complex near East Dundee. The 120-foot-tall tower was built in 1952 and was in operation until 1992.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Spectators get a look at what's left after Able Contractors knocked down the 40,000-gallon water tower formerly used by the Milk Pail Restaurant complex.

       Spectators get a look at what's left after Able Contractors knocked down the 40,000-gallon water tower formerly used by the Milk Pail Restaurant complex.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • A red cloud of smoke filled the air after workers toppled a 40,000-gallon water tower Tuesday near East Dundee.

       A red cloud of smoke filled the air after workers toppled a 40,000-gallon water tower Tuesday near East Dundee.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Owner Bruce Oehlerking takes final photographs of the water tower behind his business, the Milk Pail Restaurant complex, as Able Contractors works to knock down the 40,000-gallon water tower that was no longer in use and threatened to fall into the parking lot on its own. Oehlerking figured it was better to have pros dismantle and topple it than let it be a liability.

       Owner Bruce Oehlerking takes final photographs of the water tower behind his business, the Milk Pail Restaurant complex, as Able Contractors works to knock down the 40,000-gallon water tower that was no longer in use and threatened to fall into the parking lot on its own. Oehlerking figured it was better to have pros dismantle and topple it than let it be a liability.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Milk Pail Tower Felled

 
 

A leaning water tower near East Dundee that was erected in 1952 behind the Milk Pail Restaurant complex came crashing down 60 years later Tuesday afternoon, amid cheers and several high-fives.

The tower's purpose was to provide water pressure for the complex's sprinkler system in case of fire, said Bruce Oehlerking, who has owned the complex since 1985 and with his family since 1995.

But once the complex hooked up to East Dundee's water and sewer system in 1992, the tower was rendered obsolete and the 20-foot wooden tank, which held 40,000 gallons of water, was drained.

Oehlerking thought about using the tower as a lookout for those brave enough to climb it to see the expansive views from 120 feet high, but he ultimately put the kibosh on that idea, citing the expense and insurance and safety concerns.

In recent years, the tower has presented a hazard by leaning ever so slightly toward the parking lot. That was Oehlerking's signal to knock it down.

"We don't want it to go more than that," he said.

Oehlerking hired Florida-based Able Contractors to do the job.

Owner John Ferguson and his crew of two men -- Jake Rosenbaum of Schaumburg and Austin Ross of Carpentersville -- spent nearly 4 hours trying to get the tower to fall.

They used a blowtorch and sledgehammers to knock out a portion of one of its metal legs, carved a large notch into two other legs and removed the bolts from the fourth leg, which ultimately brought the tower down.

It only took about 10 seconds for the tower to hit the ground and leave a red cloud in its wake.

As it fell, Ross and Ferguson got out of dodge.

"Was that wild or what? It's the greatest high in the world, there's no doubt," Ferguson said. "It doesn't get much better than that."

Elgin Recycling hauled away the steel and a vendor in Wisconsin is expected to recycle the wood.

Meanwhile, Tuesday's event became a spectator sport, with nearly two dozen people gathered in the parking lot waiting to see the tower fall.

Ross's sister, Lori Rosenbaum of Schaumburg, said Tuesday was an opportunity to hang out with her family while getting a front-row seat.

"It's better than football," she said.

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