Historic tower needs repairs

From the Thursday, August 21, 2003 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle staff writer. Web posted Wednesday, August 20, 2003, by Robert Pavey

The Confederate Powder Works Chimney in Augusta is in better shape than previously thought, but still needs $135,000 to $140,000 in repairs, according to a consultant's report.

"It's mostly deterioration of mortar, small cracks, things like that," said Dayton Sherrouse, the executive director of the Augusta Canal Authority. "They didn't find anything major."

On May 1, engineers from International Chimney Corp., based in Buffalo, N.Y., began scaling the chimney's steep walls to determine how badly time and nature have eroded the structure.

The 153-foot tower is the lone remnant of the Confederate Powder Works, which produced 2.75 million pounds of gunpowder between 1861 and 1865 from its site along the Augusta Canal.

The chimney was preserved after the Civil War when the rest of the 28-building complex was razed to accommodate Sibley Mill and other projects.

Consultants found cracked mortar between bricks and vertical cracks ranging from 3 to 10 feet in length on the south, west and east sides of the chimney, the report said.

One larger crack, almost 40 feet in length, was found on the west face - and was attributed to a possible explosion during use, overheating or minor settling.

Douglas Bond, an engineer with McMullan & Associates who wrote the structural report, recommended that bricks that represent a falling hazard be repaired and a better lightning protection system be installed.

Also, he wrote, the cast-iron "cap" on the top of the chimney is cracked and should be cleaned and repaired. Weeds growing atop the chimney should be removed and prevented from regrowing.

The top of the chimney is particularly important because its designer, a West Point-educated colonel named George W. Rains, is rumored to have placed cornerstone documents there.

The assessment was conducted with a matching grant that included $5,700 from Georgia's Historic Preservation Commission and $3,800 from the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter.