Courthouse clock tower Restored vane caps off project

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Courthouse clock tower Restored vane caps off project
Present for the installation of the restored weather vane at the Clayton County Courthouse were, left to right, Roger Thomas (CCHPC), Supervisor Gary Bowden, courthouse custodian Myron Phelps, Lee Lenth (CCHPC), Betty Buchholz (CCHPC), Gary Goyette (CCHPC), Art Geisert, and John Nikolai (CCHPC).

By Pat McTaggart
Freelance Writer

It took six long years, but the final phase of the clock tower restoration project at the Clayton County Courthouse has been completed with the placing of a fully restored weather vane.

The courthouse was built in 1867-68 with an addition added in 1877-78. In 1896 a wooden clock tower was added to the structure and an E. Howard #1 striker tower clock was installed. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Preliminary studies for the restoration project began in 2012. The goal was to restore the clock and the tower to the way they were in 1896. The clock was removed for repair and restoration in 2014. Wooden hands and new numerals were put on the clock’s four faces and the original dark background was restored.

Balustrades around the widow’s walk on the tower were restored in 2016 and new wiring was installed in the tower in 2017.

The final phase of the project, addressing problems with the upper parts of the tower, began earlier this year. Louvers were replaced in a way to prevent moisture and birds getting inside the tower. The roofing in the upper parts was replaced. And the parts that were wooden were painted on the underside to help prevent moisture penetration on the whole piece of wood.

The decorative pieces above and around the dials were restored and wooden decorative pieces were either replaced or restored depending on the amount of deterioration that was found.

The last step of the project was the placing of the original restored weather vane on top of the tower on November 16. The entire project cost approximately $250,000 and was funded with grants, donations, events held by the Clayton County Historic Preservation Commission and county funds.

“This has been a long project,” said Ellen Collins, Clayton County Historic Preservation Commission. “Fortunately, it has gone well and we are very happy with the results.”

“The courthouse is a symbol in our county and our tie to the past,” she continued. “Citizens donated funds to help build the (original) tower and so we asked for donations from the communities and banks to mimic the way the original tower was partially funded.”

“Many local citizens helped build the courthouse and the tower and during the recent restoration many county businesses were utilized for the restoration. Local donations of labor related to the weather vane include Fire Farm of Elkader (Adam Pollock, Craig Bennet and Jim Walch) and Mobile Track Solutions (Ryan Lightfoot and crew). The clock itself was restored to original condition and took approximately 600-700 man hours to accomplish it. Our Commission has spent thousands of volunteer hours to complete this project and we are very proud of the results and hope the citizens are also.”

The Preservation Commision would like to have a re-dedication ceremony next spring or summer.

Register Editor Pam Reinig contributed to this article.


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