Work on landmark begins

One of the South’s most significant Civil War landmarks is getting a $192,000 face-lift.

This week crews hired by the Augusta Canal Authority began a six-week project to repair cracks and perform other needed stabilization work to the 148-year-old Confederate Powderworks Chimney in front of Sibley Mill off Broad Street.

The Canal Authority, which was granted title to the site by the city of Augusta in July, hired International Chimney Corp., a New York firm that specializes in historic restoration, to perform the work, said canal authority spokeswoman Rebecca Rogers. The restoration includes replacing missing brick and repairing a crack on the west wall. The original cast-iron cap will be repaired and covered to protect the interior of the chimney from water. Money raised by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Augusta special local option sales tax dollars will cover the costs, she said.

The chimney is the only extant above-ground structure built by the Confederate States of America. It is all that remains of the Confederacy’s gunpowder “manufactory,” 28 buildings that stretched for two miles along the banks of the canal. The works supplied most of the gunpowder for the South during the Civil War.

The complex, built by Col. George Washington Rains, produced 2.75 million pounds of high-quality gunpowder between 1861 and 1865. In 1872, when the abandoned powderworks property was scheduled for demolition to allow the canal to be enlarged, Col. Rains asked the City of Augusta to save the chimney as a “fitting monument to the unnumbered dead who sleep on the battlefields of the South.”

Soon after the powderworks’ demolition, the Sibley rose in its place, using a half-million bricks salvaged from the ruins. The Sibley, which closed in 2006, remains vacant and for sale. Just across the canal, the Salvation Army of Augusta is planning its Kroc Center.

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