Demolition of the old middle school was underway Wednesday as a crew from Donald Maggi Inc. dug into the building with an excavator, ripping through bricks, mortar and lumber with relative ease.

A Dent County Fire Protection crew stood by and doused the areas being torn apart with water, mostly to keep the dust down.

See video of demolition and photos

The Maggi crew demolished the old gym and cafeteria building on Tuesday. According to its contract with the city, Maggi has 30 to 40 days to complete the job and clear the site of any debris, but the actual demolition of the middle school building was expected to be completed by the end of the day Wednesday.

The debris will be hauled to sites in St. James and Cuba for disposal, according to reports.

The building—constructed as Salem’s first high school in 1910—and the adjacent gymnasium and cafeteria, served the community for many decades, most recently as a middle school from the early 1970s to the 1990s. It was a junior high after the current high school was built in 1959 until around 1970.

After the property was vacated by the school district in 1997, it was sold to the city for $25,000.The city turned it over to a non-profit group, the Western Cherokee Nation, in 2004 for $100 with a promise to improve and maintain the property contained in the covenant deed. The city successfully sued for its return in 2011, saying conditions weren’t met.

But no use was found for the property it continued to deteriorate, prompting an engineering and environmental study last fall to determine what it would take to restore it.  The city sought proposals from developers earlier this year but found no takers, so the decision was made to demolish the building.

Maggi was awarded the demolition contract for $294,002 in April. A subcontractor removed the asbestos from the building before demolition began.