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October 24, 2013

Inspired By Hugo’s Wrath, SC Building Arts College Thrives

By BRUCE SMITH

Associated Press

Charleston, SC (AP) The American College of the Building Arts, the nation’s only liberal arts college that trains students in traditional building trades such as plastering, timber framing and masonry, has been operating out of Charleston’s decrepit, 200-year-old city jail for more than a decade.

Administrators appreciate the castle-like building as a laboratory where students can use their newfound skills for historic preservation, but they also acknowledge its downside: It doesn’t have enough space to house the college’s iron working, stone and plastering, and timber-framing programs in one place.

Now college officials are working with a developer to move the college to a location that does: an empty 1897 building across town that once was used as a barn for Charleston’s street trolleys. The building will, for the first time, allow the college to have modern classrooms, offices and the library as well as its workshops in one location.

An adjacent building will be renovated to provide the college’s first on-campus student housing.

``We have made the best out of the situation but now we have the opportunity to transform this college in the next few months,’’ college President Colby Broadwater III said.

ACBA students at work (c) Kaitlyn Iserman

The move will also help the college, which has 50 students this fall, reach its goal to increase the student body to about 200, he said.

Broadwater says the move to the new campus could be completed in two years. Currently, offices and some craft classes are taught at the former jail, while ironwork and timber-framing instruction take place in a nondescript industrial building about 10 miles away.

The idea for the college developed after Hurricane Hugo and its 135 mph winds smashed into historic Charleston a quarter century ago.

``Every building needed to be repaired,’’ said Stephen Hanson, the director of special projects at the college. ``They had been so lovingly maintained and they realized we didn’t have the craftsmen and the training on the scale we needed to put these buildings back together again.’’

The goal of the college is to train artisans to preserve and restore the nation’s older and historic homes, and to apply traditional techniques to new construction.

Modern techniques can’t always be used to repair historic buildings. For instance, modern cement is much stronger than the mortar used in brickwork in centuries past. If you used modern materials for repairs, it would break the older, fragile stone.

The first 10 students enrolled in the college in the fall of 2005 and the school graduated its fifth class last spring. There were some financial challenges in the early years, but the college has now operated in the black for the past two years and claims almost 50 graduates.

``This is the only place you can get a liberal arts degree that also works in the hands-on skills,’’ Broadwater said. ``The unions can teach you to lay brick. But this is the only place where you can also get the art and science of the building arts.’’
Most of the college’s students take 18 or 19 hours of classes a semester when the workshop work is included. They must take two semesters of drafting before they can move on to computer-aided design programs.

The college has a library of about 5,000 volumes, some of them several hundred years old. The oldest is a 1725 volume on scientific construction instruments written by the man who was the engineer for King Louis XIV of France. With the help of a grant from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the college recently renovated a small special collections room for its oldest volumes.

Sophomore Sam Friedman of Milton, Wis., fell in love with the college after taking a ghost tour through the jail; such tours are still offered regularly to Charleston visitors by a local tour company.

``When I came here and saw the previous students’ work, it really inspired me. I knew that’s what I wanted to do,’’ said Friedman, who wants to go into stone masonry.

``I want to go to England and work on restoring old cathedrals, primarily Lincoln Cathedral. It has its own preservation team,’’ he said.

Jordan Finch, a professor who teaches timber framing, said what is learned at the college applies not only to restoring the past, but building for the future as well.

``Builders and architectural historians say you want to build structures that are lovable and when you build a modern vinyl-clad home, there is not much there to love or care about,’’ he said. ``If you come up with something that inspires people to do the maintenance, you can end up with something like in Europe where timber-framed houses have been inhabited for 600 or 700 years.’’

This Week In The Civil War

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Oct. 27: Skirmishes in Tenn., girding for more major fighting.

With Ulysses S. Grant on the scene in Chattanooga, Tenn., federal forces in late October 1863 quickly began resupplying and adding new troops in the city besieged by Confederate forces on high ground nearby. This week 150 years ago in the Civil War saw skirmishing at scattered locations in Tennessee as Confederate and Union forces sized each other up as major fighting appeared to be only a matter of time. The New York Times, among leading East Coast publication, lauded Grant’s rise to the new Military Division of the Mississippi _ in command of three armies. ``The first work of Gen. Grant will doubtless be to combine these armies, as far as possible, into one active body.’’ Added The Times: ``This army, massed and properly handled ... were it wielded and directed by one strong hand, guided by a broad brain, could trample out any Southern army, or march to any point, or achieve any object in the Confederacy.’’ For now that one strong hand for the Union would be found in Ulysses S. Grant. In the fall of 1863, he was beginning to unify the huge fighting force in a bid to smash through Confederate defenses and lay the groundwork for later campaigns against Atlanta and beyond.

Evidence Found Of Yeti: Oxford’s DNA Analysis Irrefutable

By JILL LAWLESS

Associated Press

London (AP) A British scientist says he may have solved the mystery of the Abominable Snowman, the elusive ape-like creature of the Himalayas. He thinks it’s a bear.

DNA analysis conducted by Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes suggests the creature, also known as the Yeti, is the descendant of an ancient polar bear.

Sykes compared DNA from hair samples taken from two Himalayan animals—identified by local people as Yetis—to a database of animal genomes. He found they shared a genetic fingerprint with a polar bear jawbone found in the Norwegian Arctic that is at least 40,000 years old.

Sykes said Thursday that the tests showed the creatures were not related to modern Himalayan bears but were direct descendants of the prehistoric animal.

He said, ``it may be a new species, it may be a hybrid’’ between polar bears and brown bears.

``The next thing is go there and find one.’’

Sykes put out a call last year for museums, scientists and Yeti aficionados to share hair samples thought to be from the creature.

Archaeologist Josh Gates with yeti print cast he made in Nepal in 2007

One of the samples he analyzed came from an alleged Yeti mummy in the Indian region of Ladakh, at the Western edge of the Himalayas, and was taken by a French mountaineer who was shown the corpse 40 years ago.

The other was a single hair found a decade ago in Bhutan, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east.

Sykes said the fact the hair samples were found so far apart, and so recently,

suggests the members of the species are still alive.

``I can’t imagine we managed to get samples from the only two `snow bears’ in the Himalayas,’’ he said.

Finding a living creature could explain whether differences in appearance and behavior to other bears account for descriptions of the Yeti as a hairy hominid.

``The polar bear ingredient in their genomes may have changed their behavior so they act different, look different, maybe walk on two feet more often,’’ he said.

Sykes’ research has not been published, but he says he has submitted it for peer review. His findings will be broadcast Sunday in a television program on Britain’s Channel 4.

Tom Gilbert, professor of paleogenomics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said Sykes’ research provided a ``reasonable explanation’’ for Yeti sightings.

``It’s a lot easier to believe that than if he had found something else,’’ said Gilbert, who was not involved in v study. ``If he had said it’s some kind of new primate, I’d want to see all the data.’’

Sykes’ findings are unlikely to lay the myth of the Yeti to rest.

The Yeti or Abominmable Snowman is one of a number of legendary ape-like beasts, along with Sasquatch and Bigfoot, reputed to live in heavily forested or snowy mountains. Scientists are skeptical, but decades of eyewitness reports, blurry photos and stories have kept the legend alive.

``I do not think the study gives any comfort to Yeti-believers,’’ David Frayer, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Kansas, said in an email. But ``no amount of scientific data will ever shake their belief.’’

``If (Sykes’) motivation for doing the analyses is to refute the Yeti nonsense, then good luck,’’ he said. Sykes said he was simply trying ``to inject some science into a rather murky field.’’

``The Yeti, the Bigfoot, is surrounded in myth and hoaxes,’’ he said. ``But you can’t invent a DNA sequence from a hair.’’

 

 


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