Friday, July 20, 2012

The Evil I-Hop

     I swear that back in the day when I used to walk by the old International House of Pancakes at 2001 East Colfax Avenue at night, the parking lot next door would glow in the dark, giving off an eerie, phosphorescent light. I could write it off as the results of a Colfax Crawl, but when I came back years later, very much sober, it was still lit up like Christmas. I decided to do a little research on the site, and I wasn't hallucinating after all!

     International House of Pancakes (IHOP) and Larry’s East Side Amusement Center/Trading Post were two businesses located on the site of the old Schlesinger Radium Company, which operated a radium reduction plant, and also operated a laboratory at the East Colfax location. Research, high fractionation, and radium measurements were conducted at the laboratory. The building that housed the laboratory was demolished prior to 1950. Another part of the unit was occupied by an apartment complex from 1924 to 1939 and a car sales lot from 1939 to 1962. The IHOP restaurant was built in 1965. The other building on this unit houses Larry’s East Side Amusement Center and Trading Post. This building existed at the time that Schlesinger operated its laboratory by apparently was not used for radium processing as no contamination was found inside the building.

      Radium is over one million times as radioactive as the same mass if uranium. Its decay occurs in at least seven stages; the successive main products have been studied and were called radium emanation or exradio (now identified as radon), radium A (polonium), radium B (lead), radium C (bismuth), etc. Radon is a heavy gas, and the later products are solids. These products are themselves radioactive elements, each with an atomic weight a little lower than its predecessor.

     Remedial activities at the site began in March 1990 and concluded in March 1991. The International House of Pancakes Restaurant located on the property was closed for a period of six weeks to allow for cleanup activities. Approximately 89 tons of contamination was removed from the interior of the IHOP and 670 tons of contamination was removed from the parking lot located directly east of the IHOP. Excavation of contaminated material was performed by hand and conveyor belt in interior areas and back-hoe and front-end loader in exterior areas. Removal was directed by field personnel who measured radiation in the excavated areas with hand-held detectors. Excavations were also guided by soil sample analyses. After the removal of the material was completed based on the readings of the field instruments, verification was performed by collecting and analyzing soil samples.

     Now the site has been purged of its former illumination, and I haven't seen the asphault Aurora Borealis since. Chalk this one up to just another night on Colfax...

     It's been twenty-one years since the cleanup and in the place of the Evil I-Hop now sits Mama's Cafe, serving a variety of foods ranging from Mexican to the best fried chicken you’ve ever had! They serve breakfast 24 hours a day and also offer a senior menu that is served until 10pm. And for the vegetarians, they offer a selection of vegetarian dishes. They have a wide variety of homemade pies and cobblers baked daily, also available in sugar free and for pre-orders. Come on in and try them out!

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