The Heartbeat of Haverhill

Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA

Lightning Strike Jeopardizes Historic Hamel Smokestack


Mayor Fiorentini addressed the press about the condition of the Hamel smokestack that was hit by lightening

With a half dozen cameras pointed in his direction, Mayor Fiorentini informed reporters including those from Boston television channels 4, 5, 7 and 25 about the lightning strike on Sunday, June 30 that hit the decommissioned L. H. Hamel Leather Company smokestack and led to its pending demise.

DSC_9876 (2) HAV (c) Alison Colby-Campbell Hamel Leather Smoke Stack

Haverhill skyline to be altered by the demolition of the Hamel Leather Company smokestack

The stack is an icon in the city and provides testament to the shoe factories that made Haverhill known worldwide. The Mayor noted that yesterday after the strike sent bricks to rain down upon the ground, he immediately called in an expert structural engineer to assess its risk. The damage was designated ‘severe’ and neighboring residents were asked to evacuate for their own safety. The City opened an emergency shelter to accommodate them, but it went unneeded. Complicating the process, a storm induced electrical outage made it difficult to track down the owners of vehicles parked near the base of the towering structure.


The stack which was built in about the 1940s according to a photo caption in the Haverhill Public Library collection was preserved when the factory itself was converted to residences. It stood as a beacon to the new Haverhill until a freak storm pummeled its way through the City in the late afternoon bringing with it high winds, driving rain and enormous and frequent lightning strikes.

DSC_9842 (2) HAV (c) Alison Colby-Campbell Hamel Leather Smoke Stack

Ron Bergman of Bergman & Associates, structural engineers, according to its website specializes among other things in “Smokestacks: Analysis of existing smokestacks.”

According to engineer Ron Bergman of Bergman and Associates, who was called to the scene while tending to his garden on a Sunday afternoon,  “My grandfather was friends with Mr. Hamel, if anyone wanted to see that stack salvaged, it was me. But the damage is too great. If you use binoculars and catch the right angle you can see the light shining right through the stack. Unfortunately, we’ve had so much rain that the old mortar acted like a sponge and absorbed the water. The water served as a conductor for the electricity increasing the potential for damage.”

DSC_9904 (2) HAV (c) Alison Colby-Campbell Hamel Leather Smoke Stack

Bergman & Associates office building on 20 Washington Street preserves the history of the downtown area.

The Heartbeat of Haverhill noted that Bergman & Associates is located in a historic building on Washington Street. The company appreciates history but puts safety above all else.

DSC_9859 (2) HAV (c) Alison Colby-Campbell Hamel Leather Smoke Stack

Damage to the Hamel stack is seen in this close up

The stack is not in a convenient location, and for the safety of all it will not be toppled or imploded. Bergman said it will be dismantled “brick by brick over the next 2-3 days, with each separated brick being tossed into the stack”. There is an exception. The Hamel family requested that a few bricks from this piece of their family’s heritage be preserved for them. Bergman suggested some of the white bricks that spell out the family name. The Hamel Leather Company and its stack may no longer tower over the neighborhood, but it is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

Photos and text (c) Alison Colby-Campbell


3 comments on “Lightning Strike Jeopardizes Historic Hamel Smokestack

  1. A Pondering Mind
    July 1, 2019

    Where I live, I can see the smokestack, and I did hear a loud bang, but didn’t know that what was it, until I saw it early last evening, on The Boston Globe website. I can see the dismantling of the stack, from my apartment window.

    • Brain4Rent/THoH
      July 1, 2019

      I had wanted to return tonight to check out the progress, but instead went out to dinner with my husband. And that was super nice, too.

      • A Pondering Mind
        July 1, 2019

        Quite a bit of the stack has been removed. Now, I can no longer can see it. That was nice of your husband to take you out to dinner.

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Alison Colby-Campbell



Full-brain user demonstrating a healthy(?) obsession with marketing, promotion, writing/storytelling, photography, house rabbits, the natural world, big and small problem solving, reading, hiking, HGTV and the flotsam & jetsam of everyday life. My three blogs Brain4Rent, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography are Wordpress based.

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