Repair of the Lucas County Courthouse clock moved a step forward Wednesday morning when county supervisors approved a resolution to contract with Rory DeMesy of Minneapolis to restore the timepiece, installed in the courthouse tower during the spring of 1894.
The supervisors hope to return the clock to its original mechanical condition rather than repairing the electrical mechanism installed in 1979, when weights and pendulum were removed and taken to the Lucas County Historical Society museum for safekeeping. An electrical winding mechanism would be installed --- originally, the clock weights had to be hand-cranked up once a week in order to keep it operating.
Earlier this year, DeMesy --- of Mechanical Watch Supply LLC --- had given the supervisors an estimate of approximately $39,000 to restore the original mechanism; $29,000 to repair the electrical mechanism. He estimated repairs to the electrical mechanism would last about 20 years; restoration, for another century. These estimates do not include the cost of related projects --- repairs to the clock chamber, the tower and the clock faces.
DeMesy examined the clock during January and found all of its working parts in excellent condition, with only a few --- most notably the pendulum and weights --- missing. If restoration proceeds, the clock would be disassembled, its parts taken to Minneapolis for cleaning and repairs, then returned to Chariton and reassembled.
This would be the clock's first outing since it arrived in town by rail from the Seth Thomas Clock Co. factory in Connecticut during February of 1894. The clock was a gift to city and county from Smith H. Mallory.
The supervisors will be seeking grant funding and other financial aid to help with the project, but have discovered that formal commitment to restore/repair is needed for that search to be effective, Supervisor Steve Laing explained.
Alyse Hunter, chair of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission, and commissioners Melody Wilson and myself also attended Wednesday morning's board meeting.
We learned among other things that there are no concerns about the structural integrity of the courthouse clock tower --- and I got to ask about one of my pressing concerns: What about the bell? The clock was designed to strike quarter, half and full hours.
Auditor Julie Masters explained that the bell still works, but a little too enthusiastically. It had taken to ringing constantly rather than at appropriate times and so the striking mechanism had been turned off.