A dozen continuous thundering bangs brought the downtown Macy’s to a pile of debris early Sunday, shaky waves trembling the ground and dust soaring to the sky.
Hundreds of zealous spectators gathered at dawn as high-powered sprinklers sprayed water on the building in preparation. After a series of loud bangs, smoke cut through the 10-story brown brick historic site – swallowing it in a mere 10 seconds.
The crowd cheered as the spectacle unfolded a block away, behind a protection radius set up by authorities. Morning wind carried black dust to the crowd watching from the southern side of the structure.
“How often do you see a building coming down?” exclaimed Hank Stout, who watched with his 2-year-old son, Henry, perched on his shoulders.
“They should have a count-down sign,” said Stout, while he waited anxiously.
Eve Atkisson held an “implosion party” in her downtown apartment that started at 3 a.m. and lasted until Atkisson headed outside to watch.
“We had food and drinks to celebrate because this is a really neat thing to see,” said Atkisson.
Her friend Jaime Torres was sad to see a building full of history destroyed.
“It’s an end of an era,” said Torres.
Macy’s took the lease in 2006, from the previous department store, Foley’s, a one-stop shopping destination for many Houstonians since the 1940s.
The implosion caused small fires that were quickly extinguished, as firefighters sprayed water to control dust. Authorities said the implosion didn’t affect any nearby buildings, some of which were covered with plastic.
The building owner decided in January to tear down the nearly 70-year-old structure in favor of an office tower.
Mayor Annise Parker appointed a new downtown retail task force to research options for a new downtown Macy’s.
“As the fourth-largest city in the U.S., Houston needs, and should have, more retail options downtown,” she said in a statement earlier this year.
Yet many people see the implosion as a reflection of Houstonians’ changed shopping habits.
“It’s sad because it’s got a lot of history, but people don’t go shopping in downtown anymore,” said Torres.
Road closures in the area could continue through Monday as workers continue to clear debris, but Metro officials said normal transit services will be running Monday morning.
Crews were working late Sunday to re-establish electricity to the rail line.