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KD Station Midland Packing Swift &Co
Historical photos of the Midland Packing Co. also known as the Swift & Co. packing plant and the KD Station. Photos copyright the Sioux City Public Museum Pearl Street Research Center

SIOUX CITY -- With a whack of the 6,000 wrecking ball on April 11, the towering smokestack at the former Swift & Co. meatpacking plant came tumbling down, a visible end to Sioux City's former national status as a meatpacking giant.

Now, the site has been cleared and the land seeded in grass in anticipation of future development.

In 2007, the city took ownership of the empty and fire-damaged building that become home to the KD Stockyards Station in 1975. Last year, the City Council awarded he demolition contract to Dore & Associates Contracting of Bay City, Mich., for $3.15 million.

This past April, Dore began removing the asbestos and was under contract to finish the demolition by Wednesday. The work was completed ahead of schedule, said Michelle Brady, community development specialist.

"The removal of one of the last of the large, obsolete buildings marks a key turning point for the city's efforts to rebuild the former stockyards area," said Marty Dougherty, the city's economic development director.

The site will be marketed for commercial and light industrial redevelopment, similar to new businesses that have located in the area, like Johnstone Supply and Van Meter Industrial.

Brady said three businesses have contacted the city for more information.

With the demolition of other packing plants and the closing earlier this year of the John Morrell & Co. hog processing plant, the razing of the Swift building marks an end to an era in which Sioux City was one of the largest meatpacking centers in the county. The community became home to the "big three" packers -- Swift, Cudahy and Armour.

Through floods and a deadly explosion, the plant survived, employing 1,100 workers in its heyday

The Stockyards became a hive of activity for Swift and the other plants with livestock trucks arriving in the middle of the night filling the pig and cattle pens. People did business at the Stockyards National Bank and the Livestock Exchange building The Silver Steer restaurant in the Livestock Exchange did a bustling business, often serving 1,200 for breakfast and lunch.

At 11:33 a.m. on Dec. 14, 1949, an explosion rocked the plant, killing 21 and injuring 91. At the time, authorities said the number of fatalities would have been higher if the explosion had not happened during the lunch break.

The explosion was caused by a natural gas leak. Swift resumed operations promising a job to everyone who returned to work three days later. The plant was rebuilt.

Eventually, changes in the meatpacking industry production operations forced Swift to close the plant in 1974. The following year, businessman Kermit Lowry bought the building, turning it into an entertainment and cultural complex called the KD Stockyards Station.

The businesses were forced to move out following a devastating 2004 fire. Two years later an arsonist-caused fire further damaged the structure.

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