Two Eastern Iowa communities are taking the time to ensure residents always know what time it is.
In Clayton County, it may be up to a year before the clock atop the historic courthouse will toll the hour again.
Rory DeMesy, owner of Mechanical Watch Supply, and two employees dismantled the clock Oct. 8 and transported the mechanism to DeMesy’s shop in Minneapolis.
There, the clock will be restored with money from a $32,000 REAP/Historic Resources Development Program grant which came through the department of Cultural Affairs and the State Historical Society of Iowa. Clayton County will provide $16,433 in matching funds for the project.
“The majority of the clock is still in pretty nice shape,” DeMesy said. “However, one gear is sheared, which damaged the winding wheel. Some of those parts were destroyed and will have to be replaced.”
The E. Howard No. 1 striker clock was installed in the courthouse clock tower in 1896.
DeMesy, who has been involved in clock conservation for 32 years, said he found the clock in Smithsonian records during his research for the project.
The clock had to be totally disassembled, with parts being carried down four stories of stairs by hand. In Minneapolis, DeMesy will survey the clock to see exactly what it needs to make it workable again.
“I will also document everything with photos and written documentation,” he said. “A job like this typically takes up to a year to complete, so it will probably be late summer of next year before we get it back in place. That time period also depends on what I find when I do the survey.”
In Washington County, repairs planned for 2014 will have all four faces of the clock in the Washington County Courthouse tower finally telling the same time for the first time in years.
The original clock mechanism in the county courthouse gave its last tick, so to speak, decades ago. It’s been resting silently in the bell tower ever since.
Because it fits exactly into a specifically cut space in the tower, “it likely has to be disassembled to be moved,” said County Auditor Dan Widmer. “It’s really heavy.”
A St. Louis-based company has restored the electronic striker to chime every 15 minutes as it did until 1963.
However, Widmer said other entities have expressed interest in buying the old clockworks — hardware and gears — no longer being used, leading the county to debate what to do with those pieces when the repair project starts in 2014.