Some history, some rayon, and some ‘splodie

On this day (September 19) in 2005, demolition teams imploded the Avtex Fiber boiler house in Front Royal, Virginia.

Front Royal sits at the forks of the Shenandoah River in the famous, picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Famous for its farms, pastures, orchards, and… battlefields… many overlook the industrial history, dating back to the early days of the United States, of the Valley.  One story in that history is the American Viscose-FMC-Avtex facility that stood at Front Royal.   In the 1930s American Viscose built a factory there to produce rayon, one of the “wonder fibers” of the 20th century.

During World War II the plant supported the war effort supplying fabric for parachutes, uniforms, and other applications.  Military applications increased during the Cold War.  The plant also supplied materials used in the space program (lead in for Roamy here).  In 1976 Avtex purchased the plant.  But the switch to new technologies and materials rendered the old plant obsolete.  By 1989 Avtex was in the red and closed production.  Fifty years of industrial activity made the plant location an environmental hazard.  So the Environmental Protection Agency designated the old plant a superfund site.

I know… yadda… yadda… yadda… Who cares about that rayon stuff and dump the history commercial.  What does this have to do with the Army?   Where’s the ‘splodie you promised?

Well the Norfolk District, US Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for much of the cleanup engineering work.   Price tag for the work totaled around $23 million.  That included the implosion of several buildings.

So, here’s the ‘splodie:


The Corps of Engineers posted some still photos from the implosion:

Avtex Fiber Boiler House (050919-A-1111A-014)

Avtex Fiber Boiler House (050919-A-1111A-001)

Avtex Fiber Boiler House (050919-A-1111A-017)

Avtex Fiber Boiler House (050919-A-1111A-021)

Nope, I didn’t know the history of all that rayon and stuff before sitting down to write this… just saw a cool ‘splodie video and noticed the “Army” angle.   And we’ll stand by for a comment or two about the EPA….