By Ed Quillen
Editor’s note: Back in April we asked Ed Q. if he’d like to write about the smokestacks, knowing his particular interest in Salida history, especially its sooty, grimy, industrial history. We regret his passing before it finally went to print.
As the saying goes, “The solution to pollution is dilution,” and that’s the reason for a Salida landmark, the big smokestack that sits west of town.
The 365-foot-tall chimney was built in 1917 to carry toxic fumes far away from the smelter, so that the Ohio & Colorado Co. facility wouldn’t have to keep paying off local farmers for damaging their crops and livestock. You could call it an early monument to environmental protection.
The surviving tall stack replaced two shorter flues at the smelter, and to understand why the company decided to erect it, we need to consider the process of smelting, which originated in remote antiquity, perhaps 8,000 years ago when humans began to use copper and tin.