Phase one of St. Julian Devine Smokestacks renovation nearing completion

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – City of Charleston officials are working to make sure the St. Julian Devine smokestacks are structurally sound and don’t collapse onto those living nearby. This week, the first phase of the project to preserve the smokestacks is wrapping up nearly a month ahead of schedule.

The biggest goal for phase one of the project was securing the stability of the two chimneys. City officials say an inner layer of fire brick had to be removed to make it happen.

The St. Julian Devine smokestacks reaching a state of deterioration requiring attention according to an assessment performed by engineers hired by the City of Charleston. The main concern, without repairs the smokestacks threatens those who live and work below.

“If all of that liner brick failed and fell down into the bottom of the stacks, it could potentially cause a blowout in the bottom of the stacks,” says the City of Charleston’s Director of Parks Jason Kronsberg.

City officials faced with a choice, tear the historic smokestacks down or sign-up for a hefty renovation of the Eastside structures. The fate of the smokestacks hanging in the balance leads to a fight by the community to save the stacks.

“It identifies a community that was really vibrant at that time, really doing so much,” says Joseph Watson who is a longtime resident of the Eastside Community.

Watson grew up blocks away from the chimneys more than 70 years ago. He says much of the Eastside Community has since been torn down making it even more important to save the smokestacks and the culture they provide.

“It was just something amazing to me as a child to look at,” says Watson.

The city agreed to a multi-phase renovation project in order to save the smokestacks. Phase one started this past summer costing $600,000 to remove an inside layer of fire brick, repair mortar joints, and more.

“You can see behind me there’s some corset cabling that was installed to give the structure a little more stability,” said Kronsberg.

Phase 2 of the project will focus on the interior strength of the structures. Officials say with strengthening hurricanes and seismic events, work is needed to keep the stacks up-right and neighbors safe.

“We’ve got new lightning protection, new corset cable stabilizing, so we’re happy with the progress of phase one and we’re good for now,” says Kronsberg.

The first phase is set to finish later this week ahead of the original projected target date in December. City officials say they’re now focused on finalizing plans for phase two of renovation while securing needed funding for the work.

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