Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tick tock and the courthouse clock

If you've seen Bill's story in Tuesday's Leader you already know that the Lucas County supervisors continue to move ahead on a project that hopefully will get the courthouse clock running to full capacity again one of these days. 

I wrote about this first during December in a post entitled Time Marches On: Mr. Mallory and his clock, so go there if you're interested in more about the history of a timepiece that celebrated its 120th birthday during 2014.

I had a chance yesterday morning at the museum office to visit a little more about the project with Steve Laing, historical society treasurer --- and county supervisor.

The supervisors had invited Rory DeMesy, of Mechanical Watch Supply LLC of Minneapolis, one of the best known restorers of vintage public timepieces in the country, to take a look at Mr. Mallory's clock and so he and the supervisors climbed into the tower on January 9 to take a look.

It's useful to know that the 1893-94 mechanical clock was electrified a good many years ago, perhaps to alleviate the need to wind it and also, perhaps, just because it seemed like a technologically savvy thing to do. Unfortunately, the electrical mechanism has not been especially durable. There used to be people in Lucas County who could get it going again when something went wrong, but they're no longer with us.

As a result, in part, the four faces of the clock no longer work in sync, keeping the same time, and the clock no longer strikes. In addition, a couple of hands have broken and there are other issues involving brickwork and framework that seem not to be critical but would have to be dealt with.

Anyhow, DeMesy examined the clock carefully and took many photographs. He declared it to be a fine piece of Seth Thomas craftsmanship --- and also told the supervisors that the original mechanical movement remains in excellent condition although a few minor (replaceable) pieces are missing. That includes a weight removed and added to the historical society collection when the clock was modified.

DeMesy told the supervisors that there basically are two options. One is to repair the electrical mechanism, a project that would keep the clock running for perhaps another 20 years.

The other, entirely possible, would be to restore the original mechanism of the clock --- a project that DeMesy estimated would put the clock in good running order --- with reasonable maintenance --- for another century. If winding is a concern, an electrical winder could be added to the original mechanism.

DeMesy will spend a few weeks evaluating the clock and preparing estimates for its repair --- not an inexpensive project. Then the supervisors will consider their options and begin the search for funding.

The services of DeMesy's firm are in demand widely, so it probably would be a year before work on the clock began once its repair was authorized.

When Smith H. Mallory presented the clock to the county on May 22, 1894, he said, "I turn it over to you, trusting that it will truly beat the time, and strike the hours to notify us when to begin our daily labors, call us from labor to refreshment, keep us company during the vigils of the night, and be like Tennyson's brook, 'Man may come and man may go, but I go on forever.' "

I'm looking forward to hearing the grand old clock mark the hours of Lucas County's days again.


Brenda said...

That is a great photo of the clock. It should be on a postcard.

Anonymous said...

The clock should be repaired with the expectation that it will last another 100 years.There would be many Chariton residents willing to donate to its restoration.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the original faces could be replicated and installed. Seth apparently knew what he was doing, so the auto rewind option sounds the most logical, let the original design work as intended.