It was, in 1958, the worlds largest clear span. The Union Tank Car Building was 384 feet in diameter, 128 feet high. "It was just big and magnificent," Fuller biographer Jay Baldwin said to Kansas City Star reporter Mike Hendricks. "It was a shock to everyone," says Elizabeth Thompson, executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute in New York. "It's just a real loss to the architectural community."
Kansas City Southern didn't quite know what to do with it when it took over in 1990, so they let it sit empty. Their spokesperson gives the usual explanations for their lack of care, for their demolition by neglect:
"For 17 years, (the company) sought a suitable use for the facility," she said.
Among those options: a warehouse, a factory to build manufactured housing. A museum. A movie studio.
"In each case, plans fell through," Kane wrote, "because of an inadequate business plan from the potential user, lack of funding or a conflict with the surrounding operations."
So they just let it fall to ruin. "Over time, deterioration set in. Rain poured through holes in the roof. Trespassers became a liability, as they risked injury from falling into open pits, or illness from the bat guano, which Kane said was "everywhere."
So this fall the company filed for permits to remove asbestos and demolish the building. By late November it was gone. Of course nobody told the local Historical society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, which has lost so much in the last two years already. "It took me totally by surprise," said Carolyn Bennett, executive director. ::Kansas City Star
Demolition by neglect is always the easiest thing, the company just "can't make a deal" or there just isn't "a viable business plan" so they just ignore it, let rain and nature take its course, and then what choice to they have? There is nothing left to save. The KCS should be ridden on a rail out of town for this.
B&W; pictures scanned from John McHale's R. Buckminster Fuller