April 2, 2009

Courthouse Clock Heading to Minnesota For Restoration

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock… Those sound effects typically denote time is running out. However in the instance of the Scotland County Courthouse, those tones symbolize the start of a new era for the courthouse clock. The antique timepiece is in the process of being completely refurbished courtesy of a recent grant from the Historic Preservation County Courthouse Grant awarded to the project by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources parks division.

The $28,485 grant was approved late last year in the second phase of the Missouri Heritage Properties Program. The official contract was entered March 1st with DNR.

Rory DeMesy of Mechanical Watch Supply, LLC of Minneapolis, MN had been working with the Scotland County Community Betterment Group since 2007 regarding the possibility of restoring the clock tower as part of the courthouse’s 100th anniversary.

DeMesy and his crew were in Memphis March 31st to start the clock restoration project. Crew members spent the day on the third and fourth story of the Scotland County Courthouse, disassembling the clock mechanism on the third floor as well as the arms, dials and clock faces on the top story of the government seat.

The company indicated the clock would be transported to its Minnesota headquarters where it would be refurbished and rebuilt, including reassembly and testing. Ultimately the clock would be disassembled once again, returned to Memphis and reinstalled.

DeMesy said the process will take anywhere from six months to a year to complete.

“Many of the clock’s interior mechanical components are missing, so those will have to be fabricated,” he said. “But when it is all said and done your new clock will look and run just like it did on the first day it was delivered nearly 100 years ago.”

The missing parts will be rebuilt based on a similar clock that DeMesy located. The timepiece had been in place in Bell Plains, MN, but now is maintained by a clock collector in Chicago, IL. The courthouse clock components will be fabricated based on models of this authentic unit.

That move is made necessary by the transition to electric power in the clock back in the 1950s. The time barrel and other components were removed at that time to allow the machine to switch over to electric power.

“These pieces will be custom built and will be historically accurate to the last detail,” said DeMesy. “People will not be able to tell the difference between the new and the old.”

Another missing component is the winding crank, which had allowed the clock to be manually wound roughly once a week. This will be replaced and installed, however the restoration plan also calls for the installation of automated winders to insure the clock keeps ticking.

“While it may not be practical to expect someone to climb the tower once a week to wind the clock, these improvements will be installed in a way as to not take anything away from the historic presence of the clock and its mechanics,” DeMesy said.

The restoration project also calls for the construction of two new clock faces to match the existing polycarbonite circles previously installed. DeMesy will also construct new three-foot clock hands from white and red cedar wood.

The strike fan assembly will be reconstructed meaning the restored clock will chime on the hour, a sound that the community has not heard in decades.

With an anticipated price tag surpassing $50,000, the Community Betterment Group is continuing fundraising efforts to help pay for the restoration. As of March 31st the group has raised more than $19,000. Member Betty Lodewegen anticipated the group will likely need to raise an additional $5,000 to pay for illuminating the clock faces and other upgrades.

The grant will help fund the clock restoration, electrical work in the clock tower as well as construction of new stairs in the two-story clock tower.

For infor-mation on making a donation to the project contact Chairperson Batina Dodge in the county clerk’s office.

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