City auctioned off $15K worth of used items from Gaillard 

Auditorium seats reportedly resold in South America

Rebecca O'Brien, executive director of the Sustainable Warehouse, stands on a piece of the acoustical shell that Charles Fox bought for $300 from the City of Charleston's auction of Gaillard Auditorium items. Fox is storing the massive wood panels in the warehouse while O'Brien looks for a buyer.

Paul Bowers

Rebecca O'Brien, executive director of the Sustainable Warehouse, stands on a piece of the acoustical shell that Charles Fox bought for $300 from the City of Charleston's auction of Gaillard Auditorium items. Fox is storing the massive wood panels in the warehouse while O'Brien looks for a buyer.

As a demolition crew began tearing down parts of the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium to make way for renovations in recent months, the City of Charleston auctioned off the usable items from inside. Gary Cooper, Charleston's director of procurement, says the city made $15,524 from the auctions, all of it going into the Municipal Auditorium Surplus Sales Fund to help fund construction.

The auctions were held via govdeals.com, an online clearinghouse for all manner of municipal equipment. It's a fascinating corner of e-commerce where you can bid, for instance, on 40 pounds of Freon (starting bid: $10), a 2,500-gallon plastic storage tank ($50), or a lot of 50 paper towel dispensers ($50).

Cooper says city departments got dibs on items they could reuse — the Visitors' Center took a few new seats for its theater, and the City of Charleston Golf Course and fire department snatched up some kitchen equipment — but then everything else went up for auction.

"We were really happy that we were able to put these things back in use and not have to just junk them and put them in a landfill," Cooper says. So where did all the stuff go? Cooper provided the City Paper with a complete list of what went where (see below), but here's a sampling:

• Some of the auditorium seats went to the Stompin' Ground, a dance hall in Maggie Valley, N.C.

• Most of the remaining seats went to Bank Repo & Recovery Traders in Miami. Cooper was told they would then be resold in either Guatemala or Peru, possibly for use in a church, but he's not certain where they ended up.

• Two lots of green benches went to Fifties By Uberto, a furniture store in Marietta, Ga.

• The main curtain went to Halosure, a limited licensing company registered to Steven Brown of North Charleston.

• A Koch three-door walk-in refrigerator went to Tradd Gibbs, owner of Cork Bistro in North Charleston. The restaurant is furnished with lots of other reclaimed materials, including a bar made from heart-of-pine flooring salvaged in Summerville, and the used refrigerator now serves as a beer cooler.

• Music stands went to the Pearl Academy, a math and science school in Atlanta.

Perhaps the buyer who had the biggest hassle on his hands was Charles Fox, president of Fox Music House in North Charleston. He ended up with the acoustical orchestra shell, a series of massive wood panels that once framed the stage in the Gaillard Auditorium. "It basically makes the stage a megaphone," Fox says. He bid $300 on it, thinking someone would outbid him, but nobody did.

Winning the auction was easy. Disassembling the shell and getting it out of the auditorium was a Herculean feat. "It was part skill, part luck, part just stick-to-it-ness," Fox says. "We had riggers, we had equipment, we had welders, we had Sawzalls, we had chain-cutters, we had dollies. We had to fabricate dollies because the damn things were so heavy. They were tearing up my piano dollies that are designed to hold two tons." It took nine days of labor, $4,355 in expenses, and 16 trips with three trucks to haul the shell out of the Gaillard.

Currently, the disassembled shell is being kept at the Sustainable Warehouse, a cavernous depot for salvaged building materials in the Neck. Fox has talked with Charleston Southern University and Charleston County School District about buying it, but he is leaving the sales pitch up to Rebecca O'Brien, executive director of the warehouse.

"There are a couple of schools that are interested, so hopefully we can get it to somebody soon," O'Brien says. "I'd like to get it out of my hair, and you know, it deserves to be used."

Gaillard Items Auctioned Off

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