Friday, July 31, 2009

Tip 'o the Cap to the New Monument

The smokestack monument is beginning to take shape! The concrete cap was poured earlier this week. As you can see, it will provide a nice look to the structure when completed. But skateboarders beware, it may look like good boarding terrain, but skateboard "impediments" will be installed to discourage this. Sorry.

The next step will be the construction of the new sidewalks and floor of the monument. This will take place in the coming week. Along with that, landscaping of the site will begin as well.

We have finalized and ordered our memorial plaque which will be beautiful with the artwork and text commemorating the site where the Cowell Smokestack once stood. Homeowners of the Crossings, watch you mailbox this week. A letter will be delivering some great news and announcing the distribution of souvenir bricks and our coming community celebration and dedication. More details will be available here soon.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack PM, CHOA

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hey, Smokestack, What's Going On?

Looking a little inactive around the Smokestack these days? Don't worry, we're still making progress in the project. So what IS going on, you ask? Here's a summary:
  • The monument ring construction will begin proceeding again after a short delay. In order to build it properly, we need to insure that the prep work is done well and to our specifications. This has taken a little longer than expected but is now moving once again.
  • Replacement of the sidewalk had a couple of glitches. When it was removed, we discovered electrical lines for our lighting and irrigation that were not up to today's construction standards. We have received approval of our plan to remedy this and will begin work this week to properly place the lines so sidewalk construction can start.
  • We anticipate the concrete work for the monument and sidewalks will also commence this week which will be bringing us near the end of our construction phase of the project.
  • Landscaping the area will begin soon as well. We've added some improvements to the entrance to the area from Lawson Ct. This area will be much improved with new plants that will be more drought resistant as well.
We have also begun our planning for our coming celebration and dedication of the new memorial. We are currently targeting the last Saturday in August and will have more details soon!

Check out ore new aerial photo above of the Crossings and surrounding area. We'll have this picture and a similar one taken in the late 1960's on display in our business office soon.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Smokestack Stories - Volume 3

So were you brave enough to climb 235 feet up a Smokestack? Tonight's Smokestack Stories show there may have been some brave souls out there who did just that.

Our own "Mayor of Claycord" reminisces about two such incidents in our first story. "I remember one time in the 80's somebody had to be rescued off the smokestack after they tried to climb it, and were too scared to climb back down. They didn't make it far, but far enough that they didn't want to move anymore. I went to school with the kid, I think it was around 1989, he was about 13 at the time and lived in the Crossings.

Then again, in 1995'ish, somebody climbed the stack and hung a banner from the top. He was a Clayton Valley High School student, and an expert climber (obviously). I don't remember what the banner said though, I just remember him telling everybody he climbed it and then I saw it later that day."

"Sum Random Dork" offers what may be an explanation to the Mayor's second story in his memory. "Having grown up in the Crossings (one of the 1st homes built I was 6 months old), I always loved the Smokestack. Drives home you could always spot it ahead and know you were almost home. But, my favorite story comes from when I was coaching the swim team in the early 90's, someone climbed the Smokestack overnight and hung a large sign. It was something about the President but nobody could make any sense of it. I guess whoever wrote it thought it made sense, but none of us had a clue. Because it referred to the President, the Secret Service was called in and took pictures of it. The issue became they couldn't figure out a way to get the sign down, so we just had to wait for the wind to take care of it. We (coaches) were asked to monitor the sign and if it came down when we were around to gather it up so the Secret Service could get a hold of it. Sadly, we were not around when it was finally blown off and nobody could figure out where it went."

We had our Board of Directors meeting tonight and all we're very pleased with our progress. We approved new additional landscaping at the end of Lawson Ct. to make the entrance to the memorial area look even better. We also made progress on the brick issue and hope to have news soon on their possible distribution.

Mark Weinmann
Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Smokestack Stories - Volume 2

Today we have a couple of different stories on folks who grew up with the Smokestack and their memories. First Ajayanand10 relates growing up in its shadow:

"I remember there being a lot of stories about the smokestack. One thing is for sure, I will definitely miss the smoke stack, it definitely wasn't an eyesore to me. I liked the fact that I could describe the area that I grew up from birth in as the area surrounding the tall stack. People would laugh at how random it was, just standing there, but I knew the story of what it was before. I even remember having nightmares when the kids used to tell me some scary stories about it! I remember, one of my friends told me that it was a cement factory, and late at night, the workers came out and started to pour cement into the people living around it! That freaked me out, but looking back on it, it was hilarious. I used to hang out on the hill across the smoke stack, even had my first kiss over there!"

Frank Sabatini of Martinez has some fond memories of it as well:

"As a child I grew up in Concord and we spent many hours during the weekend taking bike trips to Cowell. I remember many times going inside the tower as a child, before the door was cemented, and coming out a little bit dirty. To me, as a young child, it was a place to go and a monument that always left us speechless. What a tremendous site it would be each time we would come over the hill from the Clayton road side as the tower would get bigger and bigger the closer we got to it. I was around 13 years old at the time and I clearly recall planning my trips to Cowell with my brothers to see the Fire House, the tower itself and talk with the firemen as they burned down the houses one by one as practice. The town just slowly disappeared in front of our eyes and each day it became harder and harder to watch. You can take the tower down but it, and the town itself, will always be a big part of my childhood memories."

Thanks to both of you for sharing your memories.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Smokestack Stories - Volume 1

As the Smokestack project has entered the construction phase, we thought it would be a good time and fun to share some of your stories. Our first comes from De Ann Jones.

"I lived in the small town of Cowell with my parents and four siblings from 1962 to 1969. We kids have a lot of fond memories of the wide-open spaces that were available to explore and play in each day. We'd grab our bikes, a few snacks, and be off until dinnertime. The most vivid memory I have of the smokestack is the day a couple of neighbor boys locked me in it! Yep, we had complete access to the smokestack and the door at the base was left unlocked. I remember it was very windy inside and looking at the opening some 200 feet up made me dizzy as I watched the clouds roll by. I think they let me escape after about five minutes inside but it seemed much longer to a seven year old.

I now live in Martinez with my husband and two teenagers and can actually see the smokestack (albeit very small) from on top of the hill in my backyard.

We lived in Cowell until the day they (the fire department) burned down the house we were renting--I remember watching it burn. I used to be able to locate the large pepper tree that stood in our front yard until a few years ago. I think the current homeowners decided it was too big and it's gone now. I can, however, still locate some of the landmark oak trees that we climbed in as kids."

Thanks for sharing with us De Ann!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Construction Phase Begins

Another milestone has been reached in the Cowell Smokestack Demolition and Restoration Project. With demolition complete, we are on to the construction phase! So what are we building? This phase will entail the following:
  • Building of the Smokestack memorial. This will include a concrete floor and walkway, a concrete "cap" around the ring of the monument to give it a smooth finish, and the memorial plaque pedestal. The pedestal will be concrete but lined with bricks salvaged from the demolition giving it an authentic feel.
  • Replacement of the sidewalks around the memorial that were damaged in the demolition phase.
  • New and rerouted irrigation lines to accommodate the coming landscape restoration.
This phase will take the next few weeks to complete. After that we'll be looking towards the new landscape plan.

Starting tomorrow, we'll share pictures and stories submitted by YOU! So please tune in!

As a reminder, please see our note in the in the Urgent News section to the right for celebration planning assistance. When the project is complete, we will be holding a celebration and dedication ceremony. If you're interested in helping, please let us know.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Demo Deed is Done

It's over and done. The Cowell Smokestack demolition has officially come to an end. Wayne Evans of EBI, our contractor, said he was extremely pleased with the progress.

With the demolition now complete, the last of the Smokestack rubble has also been removed from the site giving a preview of how things will look. The remnant of the Smokestack, seen above, has been chipped down and is being prepared for construction of the memorial. The center was filled and compacted in preparation for the concrete floor. There will also be a concrete "cap" of about 8 inches placed on the ring to provide a smooth surface. The temporary road will be removed tomorrow and the actual construction phase will begin next week. We continue to be ahead of schedule and on budget.

As a reminder, please see our note in the in the Urgent News section to the right for celebration planning assistance. When the project is complete, we will be holding a celebration and dedication ceremony. If you're interested in helping, please let us know.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Demolition is Near Complete...

A shadow of its former self, the Cowell Smokestack begins to take the shape of the new memorial.

The torch cutting and concrete sawing was completed today as the Smokestack begins to take on the shape of the new memorial. We are all extremely pleased at the leadership of EBI and Ron Gaither, of Swinerton Management and Consulting in the progress being made. Overall, we are ahead of schedule and on budget for the project. We have had very few issues and no safety concerns or injuries thus far.

Please see our note in the in the Urgent News section to the right for celebration planning assistance. When the project is complete, we will be holding a celebration and dedication ceremony. If you're interested in helping, please let us know.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Final Demolition Underway Today

The final acts of demolition are currently playing out on the Cowell Smokestack today. The concrete cutting company is on site and the 1 inch thick rebar is being cut with a torch. EBI says that it will largely be done with the demolition today. It is a sad day but the beginning of the smokestack's rebirth as a memorial to how it once stood tall over this area of Concord.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

The Final Demolition Begins

The Smokestack is moving ever closer to its final height of two feet. Today the bulk of the rubble was moved out and the stack was measured for the final memorial size. has a great picture of it here by "Radar". EBI will chip it down from its height of 10 feet yesterday to just above the line and the saw cut it with a diamond blade to get to the final height. It should be interesting watching over the next several days. I'll have more picture and start sharing some of the stories we received this week.

For you souvenir fans, we haven't forgot and have saved some bricks for "possible" distribution. We just need to make sure we can clear the legal and regulatory hurdles. More details will follow as soon as available.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA