That’s the first step in turning thousands of pounds of scrap iron— a burden in the most literal sense— into a boon, according to James Vanderpool, Foundry Operations Manager at the Ornamental Metal Museum. And that was exactly the kind of love imparted on the some of the 2000 radiators salvaged from the floors of Crosstown Concourse.
“Repurposing materials from the historic building has always been a priority for us,” says Todd Richardson, Co-Leader of Crosstown Development. “Taking radiators, bookshelves, fire doors, and carts, just to name a few things, that were forgotten and deemed worthless for years, and transforming them into a thing of beauty seemed to symbolize exactly what we’re doing with Concourse, just on a smaller scale. These moments of renewal will be all over the building and site when we’re finished.”
Over 10 million pounds of metal from Sears Crosstown have been recycled to date, including the salvaged radiator iron. Vanderpool and his team took this iron, pounded it into pieces “the size of Doritos,” then melted those fragments down in 25 pound batches to forge medallions that married the old and the new, the art deco design elements of the Sears building flanked by the new logo for Crosstown Concourse. The remaining 160 pounds of iron, the maximum amount the iron furnace at the Metal Museum could accommodate, went towards creating a large cornerstone that will be located in the south plaza of the Concourse site.
The iron medallion pour was originally planned as part of the Breaking Ground celebration last February to commemorate the date of financial closing and new branding of Crosstown Concourse. Unfortunately, due to torrential rains that day, the iron pour was changed to an aluminum pour…and for good reason.
“If we were to have a ladle crack and have 200 pounds of iron fall into standing water, the volatile reaction of 2700° iron mixed with water would make that iron shoot into the air and make it shower down,” Vanderpool explains. “So we were trying to think of the safety of the public when we made that call. It was a disappointment, but the weather hated us.”
An understandable disappointment, but a reasonable decision, as aluminum is safer and much easier to control in less than ideal weather conditions. That day, 50 aluminum medallions were poured and made available for public purchase, while the iron medallions were poured later on the grounds of the Ornamental Metal Museum.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a project that’s this thoughtful about what material they can use to make something new again,” says Vanderpool. “I’ve seen a few people do this kind of thing in the art world, but this is the first time I’ve seen this kind of consciousness from a client.”
Though these medallions could be seen simply as palm sized mementos, they stand as a symbol of Crosstown Concourse— a physical testament of the Concourse mission spelled out on that rainy day last February. With a little love from a sledgehammer, a burden can turn into a boon. And just like a radiator, a building can transform from something worthless into something of immeasurable value.