Last day standing

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Demolition of the smokestack of the former C.I. Hood manufacturing plant has begun. Photo by Steve Daly.

In the early afternoon of Sept. 6, 2014, the smokestack at the old Hood’s Sarsaparilla factory towered over its surroundings in the South Lowell neighborhood it had called home since the  facility opened in 1882.

Back then, the Charles Ira Hood Company was struggling to keep up with the demand for its sarsaparilla, which was alleged to have cured everything from pimples and rheumatism to gout and barber’s itch. The product was so popular that Hood could barely keep up with the demand, moving his operation from his small apothecary to the five-story structure along Thorndike Street, one of the city’s main gateway roads.

In addition to sarsaparilla root, the potion also contained such exotic ingredients as juniper berries, blue flag and stillingia. At the height of its popularity, Hood was putting out 10,000 bottles a day.

Following Hood’s death in 1922, the business was sold by his widow and the factory housed a number of business, through the years, including a popular furniture store.

Badly in need of repairs and woefully short on tenants, the building was recently sold to a developer who was planning to breath new life into the building with residential and commercial units.

But in the late afternoon of Sept. 6, the future of the landmark’s smokestack was sealed when it was struck by lightning, opening a 20-foot gash in the east-facing side of the structure. The instability of the smokestack forced the evacuation of a number of condominiums in a neighboring building.

On Monday, Sept. 15, the wrecking ball began the process of finishing it off.

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