LIMA — The Allen County courthouse clock tower has been up and ringing for about a year, but Allen County commissioners held an official dedication ceremony Thursday morning to celebrate the private citizens who helped fund its restoration.
The county had originally considered fixing the courthouse’s clock tower in 2016 after hiring a consultant to conduct an architectural study of the county’s buildings. At that time, the clock mechanism itself was inert due to an undersized motor installed in the ’70s.
“One of the options of the building assessment was to find somebody else to own the courthouse, and (the county) builds a new one, that would be — from a cost situation — may be the best thing to do,” Commissioner Jay Begg said. “Well, that probably wasn’t going to happen and no one really stepped up and said ‘we’d love to own the courthouse.’ So we decided we better fix it.”
In subsequent years, repairs were made to the roof and then to the clock tower.
But with an unreliable motor running the clock, the best way to restore functionality was to get a new one. The sticking point, however, was the $90,000 price tag.
Luckily, private citizens and private investment offered a solution. Thanks to a roughly $45,000 donation by Nutrien and fundraising efforts conducted by former commissioners Sam Bassitt and Dan Reiff, the $90,000 was eventually procured.
“We wanted that clock fixed for a long time,” Bassitt said. “I was one of the few who didn’t know what time it was.”
But the struggle for the county’s clock tower didn’t end there. Another obstacle emerged when someone snuck into the storage shed and stole many of the cast iron parts needed for the new motor.
For Phil Wright, mechanic with the Tower Clock Company, the subsequent fix became much more complicated. He ended up casting many of the parts himself.
“It’s called a zero special striker made by the E. Howard Company,” Wright said. “They made quite a few of them. I don’t know the number, but it’s one of the more popular ones. It’s an economy model, but if you look at it, its a little more artsy that the others are.”
Today, the courthouse’s iconic tower looks much as it did when it was first constructed in 1884, and its clock is set to tick well into the future.
During the Thursday morning dedication ceremony, Begg thanked many of the donors for their help in the process to restore the clock tower by handing out 19 prints of the courthouse created by David Adams.
As for the future of the courthouse, Begg said the next step is to examine the interior issues — primarily the abandoned fourth floor damaged by the early leaks in the roof. With the outside shell intact, the county still has a number of years to consider exactly what needs to be done to use the iconic downtown building. But with the county’s dedication to creating long-term fixes for its clock, at least that issue won’t need to be revisited any time soon.
“It will be in there as long as that building stands,” Wright said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.