Metal, bricks and wood is being salvaged from the old Russell buildings during the demolition. Above, a claw attachment on a excavator snatches up pieces of metal from a pile as bulldozers push away the debris. | Robert Hudson
Metal, bricks and wood is being salvaged from the old Russell buildings during the demolition. Above, a claw attachment on a excavator snatches up pieces of metal from a pile as bulldozers push away the debris. | Robert Hudson

Archived Story

Old Russell buildings being salvaged bit by bit

Published 8:37pm Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Machines have been grinding away at the former Russell Corp. buildings in the heart of Alexander City, trying to recover anything of value from the mill buildings that once employed many of the city’s residents.

Roy Granger of Regeneration LLC has been tasked with the salvage operations and eventual “deconstruction” of many of the former Russell buildings. Most days, he said, he’s at the controls of a giant excavator that can be seen at work by drivers on Lee Street.

“We feel like we can reclaim 90 percent or more of the materials coming out of these buildings,” he said. “Everyone’s major goal in Alexander City area is to hopefully over time bring in new industry since Russell basically pulled out over the last 12-13 years.”

The process to acquire the buildings dates back around a year, Granger said, but the deconstruction process began in June.

“We’re making good progress,” he said.

Many venerable one-time workplaces are being taken down brick by brick on behalf of new owner Saucier Investments LLC. The buildings are known, mostly, by their numbers: No. 2, No. 3, the No. 3 Annex, No. 6 and New No. 1, for instance.

Granger started the process with eight buildings on his list, comprising 35-40 acres of the Russell textile complex, which has been gradually abandoned over the last decade.

Granger said the older buildings hold the greatest treasures in the salvage operation — “antique heart-pine wood” that was completely phased out of construction use by the 1940s.

“This is only found in 50-75 year old buildings,” he said. “It comes from longleaf pines, but takes around 300 years to grow to maturity.”

The classic wood is sought after by high-end builders for its strength and beauty, becoming flooring or rafters in new or renovated homes and businesses. The old bricks — no holes in them like modern bricks — that make up the old mills are also valuable. Whole bricks are carefully taken down, cleaned up and put on pallets. The broken ones are crushed up and screened for use in landscape and highway projects. Crushed concrete ends up in road base.

Steel beams and copper pipes are sold as scrap metal. And once the deconstruction process is finished, Granger said, the land will be scraped clear and hopefully sold to  new business or industry to begin a

a commercial renaissance where the city’s one-time job-creators stood.

Saucier made efforts to sell the buildings as is, Granger said, but “most were designed for the textile industry.

“The heights of the buildings, the wood construction, it’s just not suitable for modern uses,” he said.

New No. 1, which sits on prime real estate at the corner of Lee Street and U.S. Highway 280, was only built in the 1980s and is a “great building,” Granger said. “They are shopping it around to different industries.

“But we feel like if that company doesn’t come soon we’ll take it down and use the property for retail,” he said.

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