HAVERHILL — Nearly a week after a bolt of lightning sent bricks flying from the historic smokestack labeled "L.H. Hamel Leather Co.," the once-towering structure is a fraction of its original height.
That sight will be the new normal, according to a spokesperson for Mayor James Fiorentini and construction workers at the downtown location.
The construction team tasked with cleaning up the cracked smokestack throughout the week wrapped up efforts Friday, leaving only the letters "Co." written horizontally in the brick. The rest of the smokestack, once more than 100 feet tall, was removed. The remaining portion is about two stories tall.
The effort started Monday, after a fast-moving storm hit the region Sunday night.
About 100 residents of the neighboring Hamel Mill Lofts were displaced for almost two full days as the damaged smokestack was demolished brick-by-brick to a safe height that eliminated the threat of bricks falling onto the roof of the lofts.
Residents were given permission to return home at 8 p.m. Tuesday, after the city's fire chief, structural engineer and inspector decided it was safe.
The owners of the lofts are responsible for footing the construction bill, according to Mayor James Fiorentini. It is not owned by the city.
However, the property owners partnered with public officials to assure a safe balance. Whether the smokestack came all the way down or stayed as tall as was allowed was at the discretion of the property owners.
A spokesperson for the property told city officials they were aware of the historic significance at hand and wanted to be respectful of that. The smokestacks and the surrounding buildings are part of the L.H. Hamel Historic District.
Dorothy Forrestall, 69, of Bradford explained that her maternal grandfather, Louis H. Hamel, who owned the tannery in the current spot of the lofts, began his business career selling popcorn balls in the sixth grade to help pay bills and provide food and clothing for his mother and siblings after their father left the family.
According to Forrestall, Hamel then found scraps of discarded leather and would sell the re-purposed scraps back to nearby companies. At that time, he rented the basement of what's now The Tap Brewing Company and started his tannery there before moving to the smokestack's current location. Forrestall's father, John J. Heffernan, was a tanner at the location for 40 years.
Forrestall said she was a little sad to see the smokestack go, because "another great tribute to my grandfather will be missing from Haverhill."