For six decades, the building with the outline of the Rock of Gibraltar at the top was one of Houston's most familiar landmarks.  But Sunday morning, it took only 17 seconds for the first skyscraper built outside downtown Houston to turn into a pile of dust and rubble.

The former regional headquarters of Prudential Insurance, built in 1952, was destroyed to make room for a new building in the MD Cancer Center Complex at the Texas Medical Center.

 

MD Anderson bought the building in 1975, and used it for office space until the decision to demolish it was made a few years ago.  Consulting engineers say the building was structurally unsound and it was slowly coming apart from the inside out.  Repairing and rehabilitating it was out of the question.

"In its glory days, it was an impressive building, but it was time for it to come down," said Sarah Watson, a spokeswoman for M.D. Anderson.

Demolition contractors placed more than 1200 explosives inside interior columns supporting the building.  They also reinforced certain structures in the east end of the building to make it fall to the west away from the adjacent MD Anderson's Mays Clinic.

Sunday morning, as Houston police blocked traffic on the major thoroughfares criss-crossing the Texas Medical Center, hundreds of MD Anderson, TMC employees and thousands of curious onlookers watched the implosion from a safe distance just after 11am.

MD. Anderson officials say once the land is cleared, it will be used for parking and green space until a new patient-care facility can be built on the lot.

The demolition is only part of this building's story.  The implosion was delayed for several years by the search for a new owner for a large mural in the lobby.

World famous muralist Peter Hurd painted it in the early 1950s when the building was new, and MD Anderson was so desperate to save it they offered to give it away for free to anyone who would pay the cost of removing it.

Finally, last year, after more than five years of searches and public appeals, a private donor provided more than five hundred thousand dollars to pay for carefully removing it and transporting it to a museum in New Mexico.  Here's that story,and it's not without controversy.