For Immediate Release
Date: May 11, 2016
City officials and members of the Shinhoster Youth Leadership Group shed new light on a mysterious bank of vaults set into Factors’ Walk during a news conference on Wednesday.
The group unveiled a series of interpretive panels telling the unique story of the Cluskey Embankment Stores (commonly referred to as the Cluskey Vaults), located directly adjacent to City Hall along the Drayton Street Ramp. The panels provide an overview of the history of the vaults, architect Charles Cluskey, and the archaeology project and its findings.
“It is a wonderful example of collaboration across many City departments and bureaus, and across our community, bringing together all of our talents to preserve a special site for future generations and share its unique story with our citizens and visitors,” Mayor Pro Tem Carol Bell said during the event. “This project shows the power of our youth to step forward and make a difference in their community, and it has inspired us at the City to reach out more to local youth and work with them to ensure they will be strong and productive citizens and leaders for our future.”
In 2011, members of the Shinhoster Youth Leadership Group became concerned about the vaults and undertook an historical research project. Based on their findings, they presented to City Council in February 2012 a list of recommendations, which included discontinuing parking in the vaults, continuing historical research and undertaking an archaeological investigation to learn more about how the vaults were utilized over time.
“I hope our hard work here will one day inspire other young men to step forward and make an impact,” said Gabriel Williams, one of the participants in the Shinhoster Youth Leadership Group.
Following up on the group’s recommendations, the City partnered with Georgia Southern University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology to undertake an archaeological investigation, including extensive historical research, onsite excavation, and curation of archaeological artifacts. Excavations included a series of public work days open to area youth interested in learning more about archaeology. Throughout the project, the Shinhoster Youth Leadership Group remained involved and invested, learning about historical research, archaeology, community leadership, and seeing a project through to completion.
More than 6,700 artifacts were recovered during the excavation of the vaults. Some are on display in the Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.
“This structure has been somewhat shrouded in mystery, and has fascinated citizens and visitors alike through the years,” said Luciana Spracher, who led the project as the City’s Research Library and Municipal Archives Director. “We know much more today about the unique history of this structure due to the diligent work of the Shinhoster Youth Leadership Group and multiple City employees involved in the project.”
About the Cluskey Embankment Stores
The Cluskey Embankment Stores, completed in 1842, were designed by architect Charles B. Cluskey (architect of the 1837 Medical College in Augusta and the 1839 Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville) and built as part of a larger public works project of the City to construct retaining walls along the bluff above Factors Walk and River Street to prevent erosion. The brick structures have been used for a variety of purposes over the past 170 years, primarily as storage vaults. In 1962, they were documented as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) by the National Park Service, and they are included as a contributing structure in the Savannah Historic District’s National Historic Landmark designation (1966) and National Register of Historic Places designation (1969). The Cluskey Embankment Stores are one of the oldest historical structures owned by the City, predating City Hall, Police Headquarters, and the Thomas Gamble Building.
PHOTO CAPTION: Mayor Pro Tem Carol Bell, Alderman Bill Durrence and Aldermwoman Estella Shabazz are joined by members of the Shinhoster Youth Leadership Group during Wednesday’s unveiling of new interpretive panels telling the history of the Cluskey Embankment Stores.