Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Look, Ma --- no hands ...

As others have pointed out elsewhere, it's been a challenge to tell time on the Square in Chariton this summer now that hands on the four faces of the courthouse clock have been surgically removed. Initially, I understand, the supervisors planned to install a sundial on the south lawn --- but that didn't prove to be a practical option since someone in the auditor's office would have had to remember to ring the old bell manually on the hour, quarter and half. There was resistance to that idea.

So instead, the supervisors decided to have the clock --- which started running upon dedication of the new courthouse in 1894 --- fully restored. That's why the hands are missing --- they've been taken to Minneapolis where Rory DeMesy and crew, hired to handle restoration last April, are hard at work. The old Seth Thomas should be back in the business of counting Lucas County's hours early next year --- restoration is expected to take about a year.

Then, according to Supervisor Steve Laing, the clock will be rededicated --- perhaps near the anniversary of  May 23, 1894, when it first was set running.

This came to mind yesterday when the Lucas County Historical Society board formally approved by resolution the return of the old clock's pendulum and weights --- part of the collection and on display since 1983, to the supervisors.

Actually, DeMesy workers collected the parts several weeks ago but since there was never any doubt that the items would be returned for the restoration project, there was no particular hurry to formalize the transfer.

The courthouse clock was electrified during 1979 --- a move that must have seemed progressive at the time. Unfortunately, the electronic mechanism proved far less durable than the original --- discovered to be in fine shape when examined by experts near the first of the year. So supervisors had a choice --- repair the electronic mechanism in order to squeeze a few more years out of it or restore the original mechanism, now 120 years old but with considerable more potential. They decided upon the latter.

The major change will be an electronic winder, which means the weights won't have to be hand-cranked up once a week to keep the clock running.

The cost of the project will be about $60,000, so fund-raising efforts have been under way. The South Central Iowa Community Foundation chipped in $10,000 and hopefully more grants will be forthcoming. But individual donations are important, too. In fact, there was a fund-raising luncheon last week at Carpenters Hall.

If you'd like to help keep Lucas County on track timewise, checks made payable to Courthouse Clock Restoration Fund may be mailed to the County Auditor, 916 Braden Avenue, Chariton, IA 50049. All donations are tax deductible.

There are several "Lucas Countyan" posts about the clock, but the most comprehensive history of it is located here.

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