Last Fort Discovery exhibit torn down for scrap metal

Danny Owen, of White Crane Company, cuts down the torsional wave exhibit outside the old Fort Discovery building. The 72-foot structure was dedicated in August 1997 by William J. Hilsman, a retired lieutenant general and former Fort Gordon commander.

The 72-foot structure that stood for almost 15 years as a monument to science education became a pile of scrap metal Tuesday.


A demolition crew began taking down the towering red “torsional wave,” which stood off Reynolds Street at the gateway to the now defunct National Science Center’s Fort Discovery.

The structure, designed to demonstrate wave mechanics, was dedicated in August 1997 by William J. Hilsman, a retired lieutenant general and former Fort Gordon commander, who first envisioned the interactive science center that once occupied two floors in the Port Royal building.

A plaque at the tower’s base said the exhibit was dedicated to “the spirit of discovery for all children of the world by Lt. Gen. (R) William J. Hilsman and Mrs. Jean Hilsman and their children and grandchildren.”

On the day of its dedication, Hilsman called the structure “a beacon” for the education of children.

“As it sends out flashes of light in all directions, I think about the knowledge people can take from here,” he said, according to an article in The Augusta Chronicle.

Ann Davis, of Meybohm Commercial Properties, said the tower will be recycled as scrap.

“We tried to find another museum to take the exhibits, but we were unsuccessful,” said Davis, who is managing the property for the new owners, Silagi Development & Management, the California firm that bought the Fort Discovery property in January.

Rob Dennis, CEO of the National Science Center, said he hated to see the Fort Discovery story end on such a sad note.

He said the organization, which is now based in Washington, found homes for at least 80 percent of the exhibits, primarily in museums in Macon, Ga. and Greenwood, S.C.

“Macon wound up with the lion’s share, about six or seven trailer loads,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we couldn’t find a home for the torsional wave and the high-wire bicycle, but due to logistics and the sheer size of those two exhibits it just wasn’t feasible.”

Danny Owen, one of the workers taking down the torsional wave, used an acetylene torch to cut through the 18 bolts that held together the tower’s two sections before the crane lowered the top 11,000-pound half to the ground.

He intended to cut the tower’s steel legs into 5-foot sections and then haul them away in a dump truck.

Owen said they had taken apart the high-wire bicycle that stood outside the entrance about two weeks ago. That exhibit allowed users to ride a bike around a 17-foot-high metal track balanced with a counterweight.

“We only got about $600 for that,” he said.

Vacant Fort Discovery site sold to California investor
Helicopter moved from old Fort Discovery site
Fort Discovery's 'Huey' chopper moving to hospital
Fort Discovery says farewell
Educational facility to close today


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