Damaged flagstaff to be restored

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Augusta State University memorialized a historic flagstaff on its campus this summer with an interpretive sign. Then, on Friday, a crane company dismantled the flagstaff. It had been damaged recently in a storm.

Augusta State University's historic flagstaff was dismantled Friday after being damaged in a recent storm. The structure will be stored until the school can have it properly repaired.   Carole Hawkins/Staff
Carole Hawkins/Staff
Augusta State University's historic flagstaff was dismantled Friday after being damaged in a recent storm. The structure will be stored until the school can have it properly repaired.

"That's the trouble with history," Kathy Schofe, ASU's public relations director, said with a laugh. "It keeps changing."

Campus architect Fred Ricketson said the flagstaff pieces will be stored until the school can find funding to perform a historic restoration.

The ASU flagstaff dates to 1901, when it was purchased to serve the Augusta Arsenal (the site wasn't converted into a college until the 1950s). Built of steel pipes, it employed construction techniques no longer being used.

"In the 1890s, there was a big movement for erecting flagstaffs at national cemeteries, especially for Union Civil War cemeteries," said Bill Wells, a retired Coast Guard master captain and military history buff.

The 100-foot flagstaff was built by a plumbing manufacturing company in Illinois, owned by Nelson O. Nelson. It was designed to have two main sections -- a main-mast and a stepped topmast. The two-stepped mast, when combined with the guy wires and other rigging, resemble a ship's mast.

"Many people for generations thought it came from the USS Augusta," Wells said. "But that isn't true."

In an era marked with robber barons and an expanding industrial workforce living in virtual slavery, Nelson was progressive, a Unitarian who believed in the right of every man to live in freedom and dignity, Wells said.

Nelson established company towns, with education and profit-sharing for workers.

In the workplace, he provided electric fans and lights and allowed engineers to take out patents on work they had designed.

Like others of his time, Nelson embraced America's growing industrialism.

More durable and cost-effective than the arsenal's old flagstaff, Nelson's flagstaff represented engineers' ability to build taller and taller structures, lending credibility to the owners.

"It's a good symbol of America's second industrial revolution," Wells said. "It demonstrated industrial might."

It continued to do so for more than 100 years.

Reach Carole Hawkins at (706) 823-3341, or carole.hawkins@augustachronicle.com.

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Taylor B
Taylor B 07/29/11 - 05:47 pm
I smell a new "flagpole

I smell a new "flagpole activity fee" next semester.

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