CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A petition created to preserve the smokestacks at the St. Julian Devine Community Center is gaining support, says a local preservation society.
“It’s about their visual impact on the skyline, and they really serve as a testament to the industrial past of downtown Charleston,” Historic Charleston Foundation President Winslow Hastie said. “They are distinctive. They really have become an iconic part our skyline.”
The Preservation Society of Charleston and Historic Charleston Foundation say they are calling on the City of Charleston to save the structures as a relic of the Holy City’s industrial past. The chimneys have been in Charleston since the early 1900′s as a part of the city’s trash incinerator.
“What’s been interesting is the degree of support that we’ve heard and seen from the community, and when I say community, that’s even Eastside folks that live around the smokestacks that would frankly be in the most danger should they collapse," Hastie said.
The Charleston City Council deferred a decision on partial demolition of the smokestacks until September 22, pending further structural review. This followed a opposition from preservation groups, Eastside residents and other community members about plans to dismantle the structures.
In August, a structural engineer told city leaders the smokestacks need to come down as soon as possible. There is concern about a significant risk that a hurricane or earthquake could bring them down onto the 32 homes surrounding the site.
However, some have questioned the timing of the city’s efforts.
“I’m very confused about why this is all of a sudden happening, and there’s this huge urgency. They are using this specter of hurricane season that this is a public safety hazard and peoples' lives are in danger," Hastie said. "Well, you’ve known for at least 4 years, if not longer, that there are some structural issues with these chimneys, and to just wait until hurricane season and then say you’re worried about hurricane season and the people that live around here…that’s seems disingenuous at best.”
Any decision on the fate of the chimneys has been deferred until the next city council meeting on Sept. 22 when the council will review details on how much it would cost to fully renovate and preserve the stacks.