500 Wood Street Building

500 Wood Street Building

At 3:50 PM on May 25, 1997, Controlled Demolition Incorporated (CDI) of Phoenix, Maryland, dropped the #500 Wood Street Building and its signature mural of Pittsburgh sports figures in the first phase of the City of Pittsburgh’s "Urban Mall" revitalization concept. #500 Wood Street was the tallest building in Pittsburgh when completed in 1902. CDI’s implosion of the 344.5 foot tall office building eclipses the world record for the explosives demolition of urban steel buildings which CDI has held since October 1977 for its’ demolition of the 28-story, 245-foot tall Biltmore Hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

CDI worked as a specialty explosives subcontractor to IWSS of Buffalo, New York. IWSS was a subcontractor to Turner Construction Company, the construction manager and general contractor for the new Lazarus Department Store and Parking Garage which is part of a $78.9 million project being built for the City of Pittsburgh.

After two (2) months of preparation, CDI’s 13 person crew needed seven (7) days to place 1,590 linear shaped charges totaling 595 lb. of explosives on steel columns on 11 levels of the 27-story structure. CDI’s implosion of the structure yielded vibration levels of only 0.58 inches per second Peak Particle Velocity as measured at adjacent structures less than 70 feet from the base of the building. Other than a few broken windows, there were no damages to adjacent utilities or properties. Debris was so well fragmented by CDI’s implosion design that the IWSS contractor’s project manager said he was considering demobilizing the steel shear on a CAT 245B excavator he had originally brought on site to handle the debris. He feels the shear will be "unnecessary" during the fast track, round-the-clock removal of the 37,000 tons of debris over the next four weeks.

CDI’s 15-second implosion was a widely photographed end to a controversy over the destruction of the sports mural painted on the southwest wall of the structure by the late Judy Penzer, an artist, who perished in the crash of TWA Flight 800. Her images of Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Roberto Clemente, Mario Lemiuex and Bill Mazeroski melted before the eyes of thousands of spectators who braved a nagging rain which delayed the implosion twenty (20) minutes beyond the shot which was originally scheduled for 3:30 PM.

Photos were taken by Robin Rombach, Darrell Sapp, Peter Diana - Pittsburgh Post Gazette