The clinking of breaking glass, the clattering of falling Venetian blinds and thundering claps of crashing concrete stopped pedestrians at the corner of 15th and K Streets NW yesterday.
Although the smashing of a 2,500 pound iron wrecking ball into the nine-story office building is no unusual act in this city, something about it made passersby stop and gaze.
"Doesn't the thought of a ball coming down and smashing things strike you as the epitome of violence - in a power sense?" asked Bernard Duval of Arlington. "It's a reducing thing - with such little ado."
Andrea Cianchette, an intern on Capitol Hill who out jogging, also was fascinated by it. "I like powerful," she said. "And it's changing all the time."
The ball rammed into concrete walls, scattering them as easily as the hundreds of pieces of paper left on desks and tables inside the building. "That was a good one," Cianchette remarked.
Architect John Parker, who lives in the downtown area, was there yesterday with his camera. He was "sorry to see (the building) go; it was a good friend. I doubt that the new building will be as friendly as this one."
Some, like Robert Bender of Vienna, Va., who had spent 20 minutes watching the razing, took it philosophically. "It just points up the fact that nothing lasts. It puts your own little life into perspective. Kind of cuts you down to size, which is probably a good thing."
And a visiting dean from San Diego State University, Richard Little, stood out in the blustery wind almost 10 minutes "wondering about the people who do this kind of job."
"It's such a large powerful thing which one man can completely destroy by himself. They must get a lot of satisfaction. Like Moses parting the Red Sea."
In fact, wreckers do get satisfaction. "That's the most exciting part - just tearin' something up," said 10-year veteran wrecker Albert Beckford of Lanham, who was in charge of the razing yesterday.
Wrecking isn't easy, according to Beckford. "It's more difficult than just picking up (girders and beams) and setting them down. To be a good wrecking man takes two to three years," Bechford said.
But "this job is fascinating. There's never a dull moment. You're never bored. Every building you wreck is different. This one was a simple one (to do) because it had no central columns." Beckford explained.
Built 51 years ago by the H. L. Rust real estate, mortagage banking and insurance company, the building featured tall windows covered by patterned iron grates on the street floor.
The top story facade was decorated with low-relief Ionic columns, rosettes and five oxen heads linked with boughs of fruits and flowers.
The building has been sold to developer John Akridge, who plans to erect a 12-story, $15-million office buildingmade of glass and precast concrete on the site.