A half-century old Waynedale landmark is set to see some upgrades in the near future.
Company officials are planning to upgrade and improve the observation tower at the old Hanson limestone quarry off Ardmore and Sandpoint Roads.
“We’re not exactly sure when it’s going to happen, because it will take some time to develop a new one,” said Matt Dawes, Plant Manager for the Hanson Quarry, now owned by the Heidelberg Materials company.
First erected in the mid 1950s, according to Dawes, the tower has stood over the giant quarry for decades now, allowing locals and tourists alike a chance to get a glimpse at a working limestone quarry.
Onlookers get to watch as giant excavating machines do their work to rip limestone from the ground. Dawes said one of the most popular attractions is watching the workers do blasts in the quarry, which might move up to 40,000 pounds of rock and stone in an instant.
In addition, one of the most well-liked aspects of the tower are the school tours the company offers local students, Dawes noted, with more than 1,500 students a year touring the facility. He jokingly noted that after many school kids watch an enormous blast in the quarry, they immediately want to see it all over again.
He noted the site has become a tourist favorite.
“We get a lot of sightseers from out of town,” Dawes said. “A lot of people hear about it from either word of mouth or on social media. It’s probably thousands of people a year. I mean, every time I go back there, there’s probably 10 to 15 folks in the tower.”
Dawes noted the importance of what he and his crew do at the quarry, as the limestone they extract ends up in places all over town.
“It’s a neat spectacle, because it really is more than just a big hole in the ground,” he said, continuing, “This is the stone that’s going to build local roads, the stone that’s making people’s driveways, and the ball field downtown, area office buildings, people’s houses.”
The quarry actually was founded in the early 1900s, with just sand and gravel being excavated. The operation switched to digging for limestone in the 1950s, Dawes said.
Hanson Aggregates, the owner and operator of the site, has its offices at 6100 Ardmore Road, and describes itself as a “producer and supplier of crushed stone products.” The firm was acquired in 2013 by a company named Heidelberg Materials. According to Dawes, the company is essentially the same other than the name change.
Dawes said hours for the new tower will remain as they have for years, from dawn until dusk, and admission to the tower will remain free of charge, he noted. “It’s always been free, and will it will remain that way.”
Dawes said that while what’s coming next isn’t exactly crystal clear, his company wanted to make sure folks knew the Waynedale favorite would remain standing in some form or another.
“We just want to get the word out. So people know we’re not closing it or anything. We just want to improve it.
“We just want people to know that there will be something coming.”
Dawes added that the tower is a big part of Waynedale and its history, just as his company’s staff is connected to the area.
“It’s just been a part of Waynedale for so long,’ Dawes said. “Many of our employees have roots in Waynedale, or went to Elmhurst High School, and we want to keep that tradition alive for them and everyone else in Waynedale.”