Two-story-high grey rubble piles now lay where Calaveras Cement Company buildings once stood along Pool Station Road near San Andreas.
The roar of bulldozers and groan of twisting steel can be heard as the remains of what once was a major employer in the area are demolished and hauled away. Dave Whitney, environmental engineer with Lehigh Southwest Cement Company, which owns Calaveras Cement, said the old plant — silos, crushers, kilns, mills and assorted buildings — has long needed to be torn down. The liability of trespassers getting injured was part of the problem, he said. "The sheriff has had problems over the past few years," he said. The demolition work began in November and should finish by May.
From 1926 until 1983, the plant provided good paying jobs for foothill employees and high quality cement for construction projects throughout the West. In the 1960s, about 450 employees took home Calaveras Cement Company paychecks. Projects as varied as the Pardee Dam, Oakland Bay Bridge, Altamont Pass and Eastridge Shopping Center in San Jose were built with Calaveras Cement.
Its current owner, Lehigh Southwest, with corporate headquarters in Allentown, Penn., is part of the Heidelberg Cement Group of Heidelberg, Germany.
"The economics in the 1980s for the cement industry in general were rough," Whitney said. "There were quite a few companies that did not survive and were bought out." Lehigh bought Calaveras Cement in the early 1990s. Whitney said there are no plans for the 1,200 acres of Calaveras Cement property. "We’ll clean it off and fence it off. But at this point, we’re not committing to putting anything on it in the foreseeable future," he said. "It is still zoned manufacturing or industrial, so something can go in there later."