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Can Pile survives move

A gigantic tower of empty oil cans paraded through the streets of Casselton Thursday in a slow-motion escape from demolition.

Held hostage by shrink wrap, chains and cables, the old Can Pile braved the rain and suffered only minor can loss in its one-third mile journey to safety.

About 60 spectators, volunteers and members of the media witnessed the 75-year-old landmark's move from Loegering Manufacturing to land near the city's south water tower.

Loaded onto a semitrailer, the Can Pile stood tall with its little American flag flapping in the breeze as it pulled into its temporary new home.

Supporters breathed sighs of relief when the 12-ton pile of cans survived the move.

"I had tears in my eyes," said Cindy Phillips of Fargo. "We all knew it was something that had never been done."

"It looks like a ship coming in from battle," said Ken Habiger of Casselton. "It's coming in proudly."

The Can Pile, which stands between 40 feet and 50 feet tall, was created in the 1930s by service station owner Max Taubert.

Deemed by some as history and by others as garbage, the Can Pile is filled with countless empty oil cans held together by chicken wire.

In its nearly 75 years of existence, the Can Pile had only moved once, and that was just a few hundred feet about 35 years ago.

Earlier this year, Loegering Manufacturing President Kurt Bollman notified Habiger and Tourism Committee President Greg Kempel that the company wanted the Can Pile removed from its property.

He gave a May 29 deadline for residents to remove the pile if they wanted to preserve it or the pile would be demolished.

On Wednesday and Thursday, volunteers worked to secure the pile using timbers, shrink wrap, cables and a large steel sheet.

As the sheet was pushed beneath the pile, some cans tumbled out. The structure remained intact, and volunteers placed the cans in a bin to save them.

Hank Weber, 83, of Casselton spent his afternoon watching workers secure and move the Can Pile.

He recalled eating hamburgers at the service station owned by Taubert and said the landmark brings back a lot of memories.

"A lot of history. A lot of history," he said while gazing at the structure.

Paula Mehmel of Casselton brought her sons, Duncan, 12, and Ian, 10, to watch the Can Pile move.

"It's not something you see every day," she said with a laugh. "It's exciting to see people put their creativity and minds to use."

Shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday, the Can Pile was lifted with a crane and placed on a trailer. Workers cut power lines so the structure could get through as it was driven away.

By 4:15 p.m., the Can Pile was resting at its new home.

Al Runck, who lives 10 miles south of Casselton and assisted with the move, praised the efforts of the workers who got the job done.

"It was quite a very interesting task to handle," he said. "What an experience."

With the Can Pile saved, supporters are now focusing on forming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Can Pile Preservation and Interpretive Center.

The goal is to preserve the pile and interpret it in a way that talks about the history of transportation, Phillips of Fargo said. One of its first tasks is finding a permanent home for the Can Pile.

"I'd like it to come back along the highway," Phillips said. "We'll just have to see what offer is the best chance for preservation and interpretation."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560