Savannah Tech students create new process to preserve history

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah Technical College to the rescue with a new contraption to fix damaged historic signs downtown.

Before the students' bright idea, it cost about $3,000 to send off one marker for repair.

Historic markers downtown are a road map for visitors. Car wrecks and hurricanes often destroy them, leaving tourists to guess at the historical significance of some sites.

Students at Savannah Tech have now made recreating that history a snap.

"This would break and then we would have to recast the whole marker," said Benjamin Curran, the department head of Historic Preservation.

At least they thought they did. Before students realized they could simply fix the base at a third of the cost.

"Once we start the furnace, what we do is we turn on the propane and drop in a lit piece of paper. It's a huge flame that shoots out. And then we slowly introduce the air to it and it creates a fire cyclone so it keeps a consistent heat," said Shea Caruso, a Savannah Tech student.

They add aluminum and it takes about a half hour to melt.

"Then we test it and make sure it's the right temperature," Caruso said.

Two people to grab the tongs, lift the boiling aluminum.

"Then we slowly pour it into the cast or the mold," Caruso said.

Their first go-round made a cast that was too small and too clunky. Round two and they found a winner.

"So, it's just got a channel right down the middle and then the marker, when the bottom's been cut off fits right into that channel," Curran said.

"Benjamin told us where we would go, but we had to think of how we would get there," said Elizabeth Yount, a Savannah Tech student.

Students with different backgrounds and green in the area of construction.

"There were many students who didn't know how to use a tape measure. Who didn't know how to use the shop tools," Yount said.

With teamwork and hardwork, the Savannah Historic Foundation says this is gold.

"It's saving time. It's saving money," said Daniel Carey, the president of Historic Savannah Preservation.

And it's getting these markers back up and handy for those who want to know Savannah.

"It's sort of like going to history class without a textbook when you don't have these markers up," Carey said.

The Savannah Technical College Foundation is seeking a patent on their technique. One they're hopeful is a success nationwide down the road.

"If we can't preserve our past, then we have nothing to offer the future," Yount said.

The students' first success was repairing the Jingle Bells marker of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Troup Square.

They say they've already had multiple people reach out since waiting to get in line.

If you are interested in seeing what historical markers are in Chatham County or across the state of Georgia, please click here to view a map.

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