Courthouse clock tower repairs set for mid—October

Staff writer

David Seay of Regulator Time Company plans to commence with restoration of the four clock faces in Marion County courthouse in approximately two or three weeks.

Seay determined the water damage on the north dial came from a hole above the dial in the masonry and had worn down and allowed moisture to get in.

“The water ran down the circumference of the dial and sat between the stone and wood at the bottom,” Seay said. “The damage there was worse than the other dials because there was less sun to dry it out.”

The other clock dials had damage due to small amounts of moisture that had penetrated and, like the north dial, allowed microorganisms and bacteria to grow.

Curiously enough, the wood that had rotted was not the old-growth timber that was originally installed, Seay said. It was the newer, painted, wood that had been installed 10 or 11 years ago, that was damaged.

Repair plan

Seay’s basic plan is to remove the clock faces from the inside of the tower, then take out the cast iron numbers, and remove the clock hands.

Once the clock faces are out, Seay’s team will repair the masonry and water damaged wood, after which they will seal the circular holes with plywood.

He will transport the clock faces, and cast iron portions back to his shop in Manhattan where everything will be repaired and restored.

“We’ve done this a lot,” Seay said. “We are going to replace the existing material with extremely tough half-inch laminate glass.”

The laminate has two quarter-inch sides sandwiching an inner layer that won’t leak even if the out layers crack, he said.

They will also make sure the clock hands are poised and balanced for accuracy in time keeping, he said.

When they return they will use a crane to help install the clock faces. Seay said he would work from a basket on the end of the crane to seal up what he cannot reach from the inside.

Once they finish the reconditioning process, Seay said the dials would be twice as tough and look more like they did when the E. Howard Clock Company originally installed them in 1908.

Other points of architectural interest

  • Seay said the diameter of clock dials like Marion’s were determined due to the height of the building. For every 10 feet, one foot was added to the diameter of the clock face. He determined the building was approximately 70 feet tall because each clock face was about 7 feet in diameter. He said architects used this rule for general readability of the hours.
  • The construction of the courthouse bell tower is similar to many others in the area, Seay said. However, it is unique in one major way. The bell was mounted so close to the floor that it didn’t ring as loud as others situated further from the floor. To solve low volume problem, Seay said, “four halls shaped like megaphones” were installed in order to amplify the sound.

 

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