By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — It once pumped smoke from a busy industrial plant into the skies over Pigeon Cove Harbor.
But the smokestack on the former Cape Ann Tool Company site has become more of a lightning rod in recent years; some wanted it torn down, while others hoped to preserve it, citing historical significance.
Wednesday, however, its fate was sealed.
Starting in the morning, crews working on behalf of the site’s owner and redeveloper, Michael Rauseo of Cape Ann Tool LLC, began tearing down the smokestack on the Granite Street site, as people snapped photos of workers on top of machinery chiseling away at the top of the tower.
While town Building Inspector Paul Orlando has previously said the smokestack — and the overall site — posed no immediate threat or hazard, Rauseo said Wednesday that times had changed.
“We’re taking the smokestack down because the building inspector asked me to do so right away,” Rauseo wrote in an email to the Times. “We no longer have a use for the smokestack and we didn’t want it to become a hazard.”
He added the top portion of the tower most damaged by weather will be coming down by hand; the whole structure will come down before the metal building of the former tool company site, which was deemed the safest way possible, Rauseo said.
The smokestack rose up again as an issue as town officials discussed it at a Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday night; Rauseo had let town officials know to expect the demolition process to begin.
“I can appreciate the historical significance,” Selectmen Paul Murphy said, though he added that all the proper permits to take down the smokestack had been filed. “Things are moving in the right direction.”
Some residents said they’ll miss the tower.
“I think it should have been saved,” said Zenas Seppala. He served on a town Cape Ann Tool Company Task Force before the group dissolved without making any clear decision regarding the town’s handling of the property. Last September, Rauseo and his LLC acquired the site from Old Colony Maritime LLC’s Christopher Kaneb, and he has moved forward with a plan for a multi-use development that includes homes, some commercial space and boat slips on the property’s waterfront side.
When Kaneb owned the property, he initially wanted to keep the smokestack. But following a study by an engineering firm, Kaneb sought to see the smokestack demolished along with the rest of the metal structure.
The Board of Appeals as well as the Planning Board ultimately backed the smokestack demolition.
While Seppala said he was glad the site was looking better — as the glass windows and other aspects of the property were cleaned up — he compared the project to restoring an old home.
But Marie Larson, who lives near the site and was also on the tool task force, said she was glad to see some activity on the site.
“Nobody would want to buy a house with that in the middle,” she said referring to the smokestack. “I think that it’s progress.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.