Kaboom! The Implosion of the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital

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On April 8, 2011, the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland was demolished.

Oak Knoll hospital was built during World War II for the purpose of treating American military personnel who had been wounded in the Pacific theatre. In later years it also treated those who had been wounded in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The site was previously a golf course and country club which had closed during the Great Depression. The largest of the buildings (seen below) was built from 1965-1968.

This was my first large-scale implosion I’ve witnessed. I managed to sneak in and perch myself in a tree with the telephoto lens for a nice, up-close view of the dynamite doing its thing. As I waited for the thundering explosions to start, I began to appreciate the design of the building and was sad to see it go. I wondered why the developers couldn’t figure out something to do with it. For years the building was a homeless encampment and I regretted not sneaking in for a bit of urban exploration with the camera.

It only took 800 pounds of dynamite to bring down the huge 11 story concrete building–four sticks in each of the building’s 1500 columns. Boom, boom, boom…the deafening blasts echoed out rhythmically about 15 times before the building even budged. Within seconds, the once-proud edifice disappeared in a cloud of dust.

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