Former state Rep. Bill Jackson Sr. and a team of more than a dozen men showed the resilient Evans Consolidated School arch their resolve Saturday.
Jackson, who organized the Save the Pillars committee that raised funds to preserve and move the only remnants of the old school, helped oversee crews from Augusta Crane and Rigging, Robertson Grading and Paving and W.H. Reeves Construction, which moved the arch to its new home behind the Columbia County Library in Evans.
Evans Consolidated School burned to the ground in 1955 on the site of the old Evans Middle School.
The committee raised funds to save the pillars and arch because the old Evans Middle site will be razed and replaced with a shopping center.
A new Evans Middle is under construction on Hereford Farm Road and will open Aug. 4.
Jackson described the task of moving the arch under a blistering sun as "perseverance, will, desire and commitment."
At 18 feet tall and 52 tons, the arch was as much as five times the mass of each of the pillars the group moved in June.
Work crews arrived at the old Evans Middle School at about 7:30 a.m. with a 75-ton capacity crane.
It was determined to be inadequate for the job when workers found a 6- to 8-inch thick concrete slab below the arch's massive concrete-and-steel base.
"It's not an easy project. If it was it would already be over with," Jackson said at about 10:30 a.m., when it appeared their efforts were done for the day. "We'll just go another direction, but we'll get it."
Instead of waiting a week for the services of a 100-ton or greater capacity crane, Augusta Crane and Rigging got another crane operator to lend aid.
At about noon, a second crane arrived, this one rated to hoist 60 tons.
Before 1 p.m., as at least a dozen spectators watched, operators Charles Randy Anderson and John Pollack used the cranes in tandem to pull the arch out of the ground and onto a flatbed tractor-trailer.
Molly Boyleston, a former Evans Middle student, was the first spectator to arrive at the school at about 8:30 a.m.
As others videotaped the move, she snapped off a few images with a cellular phone camera and reminisced about the school with Columbia County school board member Mike Sleeper and Evans Middle Principal Michael Johnson.
Boyleston said she claimed a chunk of rock broken off one of the pillars to give to her mother, a former Evans Consolidated School student.
She said her mother told her she couldn't bear to see the arch and pillars moved and came in her mother's stead.
Boyleston said she was glad the pillars and arch could be saved.
"It's a piece of history," she said. "It's a part of Evans and it shouldn't be destroyed."
After securing the arch to the rig, crews drove it down Washington Road to Ronald Reagan Drive to the library with a police escort.
There, Anderson, Pollack and crew members maneuvered a maze of pine trees to place the arch next to what will be a new concession and restroom area for the Columbia County Amphitheater.
Two cranes the size of tractor-trailers with booms as tall as the surrounding trees jockeyed for position in an area the size of a baseball diamond.
Several times, the operators raised the cranes' massive outriggers to reposition them after moving the arch only a few feet.
When placed in their final positions in coming months, the pillars and arch will line a new service walkway to the concession area and a playground.
Ultimately, members of the Save the Pillars committee hope to donate the new site to a garden club to maintain as a picnic area, Jackson said.
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