Charleston community attempting to save St. Julian Devine smokestacks

VIDEO: Charleston community attempting to save St. Julian Devine smokestacks

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Two massive towers poking through the Charleston skyline are on the chopping block. The City of Charleston says the historic, 135-foot smokestacks on the corner of Cooper and Drake Streets are too dangerous to go unaddressed any longer.

A specialist engineering team last inspected the stacks in 2016, but in August a city engineer sent a letter saying the stacks need to be removed or repaired as soon as possible. The city delayed a decision back in September after community members pushed back against the idea of removal.

On Tuesday, the city laid out three options moving forward each with a hefty price tags.

Demolishing the stacks is the most efficient option costing $535,000 with a completion date of January 2021. Repairing the stacks is estimated to cost $3 million and would not be completed until November 2021.

The middle option is to reduce the stacks by 42%. They would be shorter, but more stable. That option would set the city back roughly $2.1 million and would be completed by January 2021.

The stacks were part of the industrial history of Charleston and were used to incinerate trash. They were permanently shut down in 1956. They are not in use today and the city says they are in such disrepair that a wind event of 74 miles per hour or more could cause them to collapse, damaging homes, roads and people in the area.

Several Eastside residents turned out to the presentation on Tuesday to voice their concerns.

“It seems like this is all of a sudden a pressing issue when a few months ago it really wasn’t. I am just not so sure it’s a threat now if it wasn’t two weeks ago.” said Teddy Gurskis who lives in the area. “I would much rather spend $3 million dollars on something we want than half a million on something we don’t want to do.”

Gurskis says $3 million is a lot of money but that saving the city’s historic landmarks will pay off in a round about way.

“We are one of the hubs of tourism in the area. We are consistently rated one of the top cities in America to live and I think that is because we have an appreciation for these things with historic value,” Gurskis said. “Just because we aren’t necessarily using it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have historical context.”

The stacks are part of the St. Julian Devine Community Center, named after the first black man elected to the Charleston City Council. He also served as Mayor Pro Tem.

Another community member says she recognizes the potential danger but would like to see some of the stacks preserved somehow as a tribute to Devine.

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