The iconic chimney in Chimney Park was stabilized last week and is no longer in danger of falling down, thanks to $19,300 in donations from the Friends of Chimney Park nonprofit.
A foundation and the chimney are all that remain of the Martin-Patterson, which was built between 1910 and 1918, according to the park's website, and burned down in the late 80s shortly after the county acquired the property. Chimney Park is located off Ramsey Drive behind the Covington Branch Library.
Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk said it's difficult to know how unstable the chimney was but because of its hollow, fireplace base, its stability looked "pretty scary," though it has stood on its own for more than two decades. However, securing the chimney not only preserves history but reduces the county's liability in case of a collapse.
Covington firm HOPI contracting dug down behind the chimney, and inserted helical piers, which are essentially giant steel screws, into the ground to stabilize the base, Delk said. The concrete was poured on top of the piers and then large steel I-beams were put into place and secured to both the ground and the chimney.
"Stabilizing the chimney means the park is a safer place. That chimney place is sort of our signature of what the park is. Having the chimney stabilized was just something we had to do," said Jean Austin, board chair of the Friends of Chimney Park.
Next up on the nonprofit's list is increasing accessibility to the center of the park for those who require a wheelchair or other assistance.
The county is currently constructing a concrete trail from the library through part of Chimney Park and all the way on to Eastside High School. However, Austin said she wants to see another concrete path or paths that branch off the main trail and snake through the park.
"My big thing is that we're really going to do a lot of fundraising, starting after Christmas for that (next) pathway," Austin said. "We have events every year, and the whole idea of park is to have an outside space that we all can enjoy."
Delk said that next phase could cost around $25,000.
Former nonprofit chair Barbara Morgan said fundraising has been tough these past few years, but the stabilizing of the chimney shows that people are dedicated to making the urban park an asset for the community.
"It demonstrates to the community that supports us so lovingly and caringly that we're moving forward," Morgan said.