Downtown Columbia has a lot of traffic jams, but there’s never been one caused by a four-story fire hydrant before.
Until the morning of Thursday, Feb. 23, that is.
“Busted Plug,” a huge piece of public art in the shape of a fire hydrant, stopped traffic shortly before noon as it made its way from Taylor Street onto Bull Street on the back of a flat-bed truck.
The 675,000-pound sculpture by Columbia artist Blue Sky had stood along Taylor Street in the front of a parking lot for more than 20 years until it came down the morning of Feb 23. It was forced to move because of requests from a Maryland-based investment company that purchased the historic apartment building adjacent to the parking lot.
The job of moving the massive fire hydrant fell to local construction company McClam & Associates Inc., based in Little Mountain in Newberry County northwest of Columbia. Workers positioned cranes near the sculpture on Feb. 19 and work continued on moving the sculpture until the morning of Feb. 23, when it was loaded onto the truck.
City of Columbia police cars escorted the truck as it started it slow movement from Taylor Street onto nearby Bull Street. Workers had to be lifted up in cherry pickers to carefully lift utility lines as the hydrant passed under them.
Once the hydrant left downtown, it headed for its new temporary home on property owned by McClam & Associates off I-20.
Unveiled in 2001, the sculpture was part of “Busted Plug Plaza” located in the front of the parking lot of the former AgFirst Farm Credit Bank. The bank had commissioned the sculpture from Blue Sky initially and then sold it to the City of Columbia when its offices moved to Main Street.
Columbia officials have been contemplating a move for the sculpture for more than a decade, but currently no new destination is planned. Proposals have included a site along the Congaree River or a place in Columbia’s main park, Finlay Park, which will soon undergo a massive makeover. City officials have indicated that the plans for Finlay Park are no longer an option.
Although “Busted Plug” is no longer part of the downtown landscape, another iconic artwork by Blue Sky can still be seen there. His 1975 painting “Tunnel Vision” can still be seen on the side of the former Agfirst bank building adjacent to where the fire hydrant once stood. That building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the Land Bank Lofts apartments at 1401 Hampton St.