MOORHEAD — It was quite a show that sunny Sunday morning back in 1999.
Hundreds sat in lawn chairs surrounding Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University Moorhead), and thousands more watched from home as the tallest building on campus came crashing down to the ground in just seven seconds — on purpose.
It was 20 years ago this week, at 7 a.m. Aug. 8, 1999, that MSUM's high-rise dormitory Neumaier Hall imploded into a pile of rubble amid cheers, claps and a few tears.
The 15-story building, named after the school's seventh president John J. Neumaier, was opened to students in 1970. Over the next 29 years, it was a home to around 10,000 students. But as the years rolled along, fissures could be spotted on the brickwork on the outside of Neumaier, indicating the building was settling.
The settling caused cracks in the walls and made some doors and windows hard to open. While some students joked about Moorhead's "Leaning Tower," by the late 1990s, administrators knew they had to do something about the dorm's structural problems.
On Jan. 12, 1999, President Roland Barden announced that in order to keep students safe and to ensure the peace of mind of parents, Neumaier would come down. Throughout the spring, they set about relocating the 305 students who lived in the building to other residence halls and facilities off-campus.
A demolition company from Maryland was brought in to oversee the planned implosion of the building in the summer. By August, 80 pounds of explosives had been placed on Neumaier's main level, second, fifth, eighth and 12th floors.
After a short ceremony and the flip of a switch, the columns on the corners were detonated followed by the rest of the explosives. The building fell slightly to the south to keep other buildings on campus out of harm's way. Because it was a still day with little wind, the smoke and dust did not travel as far as some had feared.
All that remained was a pile of rubble for crews to clean up over the next few weeks. The site was excavated to become green space for the residence halls.
By the next year, Moorhead State changed its name to Minnesota State University Moorhead. Work began on another residence hall to accommodate the growing enrollment. The new residence hall was also named for President Neumaier.
John Neumaier Hall now provides apartment-style living for upperclassmen. If you'd like more information about the implosion, check out the short documentary "Neumaier Hall: The Final Bow 1970-1999."