CLENDENIN, W.Va. — The long arm of an excavator with a specialized pincher claw on the end grabbed the free standing wall of an old gymnasium gave it a tug. The high wall which had stood for many years as the backdrop for high school basketball came crashing down in a heap of masonry and dust.

Demolition crews began the process of taking down the iconic building along the Elk River on Monday.

“We only get to do a job this size about once a year,” said Rodney Loftis, the contractor handling the demo. “It’s been a few years since we’ve done a school this size, usually its a warehouse or a commercial facility.”

The school incurred substantial damage in 2016 when flood water rose to the ceiling of the first floor. Inspectors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined e building was not salvageable and condemned the structure. Over the last two years the building has been sitting empty as environmental crews worked to prepare it for demolition.

“All of the abatement has been finished,” said Loftis. “We recycle all of the metal, then all of the masonry material goes to my DEP approved landfill. We can’t recycle it due to FEMA regulations, normally we recycle masonry materials, but all of this has to go int he ground.”

Several alums of Hoover stood by and watched sadly as the walls started coming down. Some hoped to grab a few souvenir bricks, but for the time being aren’t allowed near the structure while the work is ongoing.

Loftis anticipated the work will take four to six weeks to complete.