50 – Year Landmark Down in Seconds

From the Detroit Free Press – Saturday, April 30, 1977 p. 18-C


    In a spectacular example of now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t, St. Mary’s Academy, a Windsor landmark for 50 years, was reduced to a smoking pile of rubble Friday.
    The red brick and concrete structure fell to the ground in seconds under the impact of 1,000 pounds of dynamite exploding like a barrage of cannon fire.

    HUNDREDS OF St. Mary’s neighbors, many of whom had fought to save the rambling neo-Gothic structure which served as a girls school until 1971, watched as it was blown to bits by demolition experts to make room for a 134-home subdivision.

    Teenagers perched on rooftops and fences surrounding the 30-acre site cheered as the 364,000-square-foot church and school building crashed down about 5:45 p.m., almost four hours behind schedule. Police kept the crowds a safe distance from the explosion.

    “It’s about the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in Windsor,” said Steve Samson, 16, who confessed that he skipped school for the occasion.
    Frank Fihn, 25, said his mother and two sisters attended St. Mary’s. “My sister said if she came she’d cry, so she’s not coming,” he explained.

    Even relative newcomers to the neighborhood were sorry to say farewell to the stately “building with its ornate bell tower, classic architecture and peaceful grounds.
    “I hate to see it go because it’s such a “unique piece of architecture,” said Frances MacGregor, who has lived in a house near St. Mary’s gates for a year.

    Efforts to find a use for the building and restore it had failed. Two years ago R. C. Pruefer Co. Ltd. decided to demolish it and develop the property, which is located in the middle of a residential section.

    THE SERENITY OF the edifice was shattered forever by a team of nationally renowned precision blasting experts from Controlled Demolition Inc. (GDI), a family firm whose activities have been depicted in a beer commercial.

    The Baltimore-based company specializes in bringing down buildings quickly and safely, with a minimum of noise and ground tremor.

    Dynamite demolition’s big advantage over conventional wrecking is speed, which also may make it somewhat cheaper, according to the developers of the St. Mary’s site.

    After a four-hour delay caused by problems with the intricate system of electrical wiring which set off thousands of blasting caps inside the buildng, the demolition went smoothly.

    Just about the only negative fallout was on spectators, policemen, homes and cars downwind of the dust cloud generated by the blast. GDI President John Loizeaux, who headed the St. Mary’s project, depends on gravity to do much of the demolition as possible.

    Sticks of dynamite were planted in holes drilled in the building’s support beams, and a series of blasts timed at one-second intervals collapsed the building in on itself, instead of propelling the debris outward.

    The seven GDI employes who worked on the St. Mary’s job clearly enjoyed their jobs. “You see immediate results; that’s the fun part,” said Tom Golley, 21. “There’s a big release after it’s finished.”

    Even the demolition team, though, regretted the demise of a fine old building. “But if it has to come down,” reasoned GDI employe Alec McCosh, “it might as well come down with a flourish.”


Ada C. Richards School

Over the weekend, I received a few emails that the old grade school at Ontario just west of Pillette was biting the dust. See here for photos of the demolition on Windsorite.ca.

Another part of Windsor’s history again bites the dust.

Designed by Albert McPhail, the school was built in 1922 and was opened as the Ontario Street School.

It was eventually renamed in honour of long time principal Ada Richards.


From the Border Cities Star – December 21, 1923:

    The new $150,000 Ontario Street Public School, Ford City, which was officially opened last night by Mayor Reaume and Dr. Maxwell, public schools inspector, assisted by other prominent residents of the motor town. More than 700 people attended the formal opening, in addition to 360 children, who, following the ceremony, presented a very pleasing cantata in the fine school auditorium. Construction on the new school was started in September, 1922, pupils being admitted to classes September last. The school is described by Dr. Maxwell as one of the most modern and up-to-date in the Border Citis (sic). It is equipped with a fine gymnasium, equal in size to that of many larger educational institutions. Although in use only four months, the growth of the motor town has been such as to make the new building already overcrowded.

Another one bites the dust.

Dillon Hall

From the Border Cities Star – February 10, 1927:

    The above reproduction from an architect’s drawing shows the new classroom building which will be built at a cost of $300,000 by Assumption College this year. Construction work on the structure will start on or about March 1, and it is expected that it will be ready to receive students at the September re-opening of the college.

    This building will provider accommodations for 800 students, 300 more than the number now in attendance at Assumption. It will face Patricia road, at the eastern side of the college campus, but the rear elevation will be similar to the front in design. The outside walls will be of brick and stone construction, with an ornate limestone tower rising 100 feet above the ground floor level.

    The building will be 65 feet wide and 224 feet long, and will contain 24 classrooms, seven science rooms, three large study halls, a students’ reference library, a cafeteria, and offices for the college officials.

The school building eventually became Dillon Hall, and was designed by Albert J. Lothian.

Have a safe long weekend everyone, due to the holiday on Monday there will not be a post Monday, regular posting resumes on Wednesday.