Student innovation preserves the past for the future

Collar Bracket Replacement Group includes faculty, students and Dr. Love

Savannah, GA – Students at Savannah Technical College created a fix for damaged historical markers to preserve the past for the future at a fraction of the cost. They were able to use this fix to bring Troup Square’s Jingle Bells historical marker back to life after it was damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

“We focus on pushing the boundaries of methods, materials and techniques to innovate and invent new product procedures, instead of using antiquated or out-of-date methods in historic preservation,” said STC’s Department Head for Historic Preservation Benjamin Curran. “Our intent with this collar design was to provide an economical solution to a regular issue that arises with historical markers.”

The Georgia Historical Society took over maintenance, repair and replacement of state-owned historical markers in 2015. According to Elyse Butler, outreach coordinator for the Georgia Historical Society, a falling limb or automobile accident usually causes significant damage to the historical marker’s collar, or base where the post attaches. Then, the marker is usually scrapped.  The protocol in the past has been to reinstall or recast damaged signs at a cost of about $3,000 dollars at a foundry outside of Georgia.

“Savannah Technical College’s prototype is a great option to have without recasting the entire marker,” said Butler. “It would give us the opportunity to perhaps work locally rather than go back to the foundry to repair markers.”

STC students have designed, engineered and cast a channeled historic marker collar replacement bracket or base that could be adapted to fit different marker designs. The collar may be manufactured in large quantities, taken into the field, and used to replace a damaged collars at a substantially reduced cost. Also, it will allow the text section of the signs to be preserved rather than discarded.

Unitarian Universalist Church (aka the Jingle Bells Church) had originally erected the sign and wanted to fix it. They were raising funds to have the overall sign recast, when they learned of the STC prototype.

“The mending of our jingle Bells historic marker is a symbolic event all about bringing together,” said Rev. David Messner of Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah. “First and most simply it’s about securing two pieces of sheared metal. But more importantly, it brings us as people together with the people of 1850’s Savannah when the song was written. It brings together the neighborhood community to celebrate a shared spirit. And, it brought together an awesome team of craftspeople in training at Savannah Tech to innovate a solution and to make it happen. Special thanks to Professor Benjamin Curran for leading that work, the people of the Troup square community who participated in the funding campaign and to Gordon Matthews and the Board of our church for their guiding energy.”

Daniel Carey, President and CEO for the Historic Savannah Foundation, knew about the STC collar design and reached out to Curran to see if the prototype might work for the Jingle Bells marker repair.

“Let’s not overlook the fact that the marker, itself, is an historic artifact,” said Carey. “Under the category of using the ‘gentlest means possible’ to repair an historic resource, Savannah Technical College developed a sensitive, sound, and thrifty method of preserving a marker using local talent and resources.  That’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Perfect.”

Students from the Historic Preservation and Restoration department worked with students from Drafting, Welding and Machine Tool to create the prototype. A mechanical drafting student worked with the original sketches to create a design and print samples of 3D versions. The drafting student’s 3D print was used to create the form that was used to cast the collar mold. Welding students helped to build the furnace that was used to melt aluminum prior to casting. Machine Tool students assisted with CNC machining.

“As an institution Savannah Technical College strives to provide its students with the knowledge and skills that will make them valued members of our local and regional workforce,” said Curran. “Within the Industrial Technology department, we collectively focus on industry need, regardless of discipline. That has manifest itself in constant push to provide our students with opportunities to view themselves not simply technician, but also as contributors to the advancement of their respective fields. Innovation is the key. The historic marker collar replacement bracket perfectly exemplifies our students’ technical talents and creative capacity to further the advancement of the Historic Preservation field.”

STC Historic Preservation students cast the first replacement bracket this spring under the guidance of Visiting Artisan Gary Knappenberger, who helped STC students with a finial casting for the Smithsonian Institute a few years ago (2013). He assisted with the mold making process and helped students build a small furnace large enough to melt down aluminum to pour multiple brackets for the casting process.

The STC Foundation is seeking a patent on the development of the historic marker fabrication process.

As the only public hands-on Historic Preservation program in Georgia and one of seven in the U.S., Savannah Technical College has led the way in preservation education, specializing in training not typically held by construction workers. The program has gained international recognition and has contributed to a number of community-based preservation projects in the surrounding communities. Traditional Building Magazine named Savannah Tech’s Historic Preservation program one of the nation’s Up and Coming programs.

For more information or contact Curran at or 912.443.5864.

Jingle Bells Historical Marker: James L. Pierpont (1822-1893), composer of “Jingle Bells”, served as music director of this church in the 1850s when it was a Unitarian Church located on Oglethorpe Square. Son of the noted Boston reformer, Rev. John Pierpont, he was the brother of Rev. John Pierpont, Jr. minister of this church, and uncle of financier John Pierpont Morgan. He married Eliza Jane Purse, daughter of Savannah mayor Thomas Purse, and served with a Confederate cavalry regiment. He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery. A prolific song-writer, his best known “Jingle Bells” is world famous.

#1809 | October 19, 2017

Industrial Technology Academic Advisor: Secene Dorsey
912.443.5859 or

Media Contact: Amy Shaffer, APR
912.443.5512 or

Savannah Technical College serves Coastal Georgia with quality, market-driven technical education with campus locations in Chatham, Effingham and Liberty Counties. Serving more than 10,000 credit and non-credit students annually, Savannah Tech offers nearly 150 different instructional programs in Aviation Technology, Business and Professional Services, Industrial Technology, and Health Sciences in addition to Adult Education classes, industry-specific training and continuing education. The College serves as an economic and community development partner for the region, offering corporate and customized training and assessment programs for business and industry.

Savannah Technical College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees, diplomas and technical certificates of credit. Questions about the accreditation of Savannah Technical College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (