Looking for that one Christmas gift that towers over all the rest?
You can get your hands on a surplus, steel, 80-foot-tall fire lookout tower — and likely dirt cheap. That is, until you tack on moving costs.
It's up on Paris Mountain overlooking Greenville.
Bidding closes Monday. Believe it not, these things sell quickly.
The tower is made up of more tons of steel than S.C. Forestry Commission property manager David Owen wants to guess at. But more often than not, the steel isn't bought for scrap, he said. People set the towers back up at home and restore them.
Of course, "home" is usually the size of a farm field. And the tower is a definite fixer-upper.
"This item may be missing parts and the overall operating conditions are unknown. Repairs may be needed," the GovDeals auction page notes.
"Inspection recommended," it continues. "The agency is reporting this item is in fair condition overall but needs repairs to the steps, windows and cab floor."
Also, the tower stands close to a cliff edge near Furman University. There's room to drop it, but carefully, a section at a time. The crane would have to keep clear of the communications towers nearby.
Then you have to dismantle the larger sections enough to make the cargo street legal to haul off the works. We won't even discuss re-erecting it.
In the past, winning bids for the towers have ranged anywhere from about $1,000 to $5,000, Owen said. But breaking down and moving them can cost more than double that.
Still, "it's quite a view from up there," Owen said.
Maintenance will be an issue.
Rutledge Leland, the mayor of McClellanville, which owns a tower of its own, said the tower near the coast is a 25-foot structure overlooking the vast seascape of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. That tower was built years ago by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to watch for poachers.
The 1930s-era steel is so sound it looks like new, Leland said. The wooden steps have rotted, though, and the tower is now closed to the public. But it's a landmark along Jeremy Creek near the town museum, a scenic attraction and an historic piece of a town that takes a lot of pride in its history.
The town has commissioned a study to check its stability and the cost to repair it.
"It's a fine-looking old thing," Leland said.
There's one last hitch to getting (a lot of) hands on the Paris Mountain tower: You only have 10 days from the day of sale to remove it.
By Monday, Christmas is fewer than 10 days away.