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Repairing the Benton County Courthouse clock would cost $50,200.

The clock atop the Benton County Courthouse -- a more than 100-year-old gift to the community from 19th Century State Bank of Vinton President Paul Correll -- cost around $2,000 to build.

Repairing it in 2014 or 2015 would cost about 25 times that much, according to an estimate from a Minnesota clocksmith.

The Benton County Historical Preservation Commission has been working with the Benton County Supervisors over the past few months, discussing the clock, its history, and the extent and cost of restoring it to working order.

On Monday, Supervisor Terry Hertle presented the estimate from Mechanical Watch Supply, LLC., of Minneapolis.

According to the company, it can perform a "museum-quality conservation" of the clock for $39,500. But that would leave the clock in need of a weekly manual winding. The bid includes an option for two automatic winders, which cost $5,350 each. Two of those would be needed to keep the clock wound at all times. The total cost of the project is $50,200.

Grant application process to begin

The first step in the project is writing a REAP Historic Resources Development Program grant application, which would seek nearly $35,000 (approximately two-thirds of the total cost). The Commission members hope to raise the remaining funds from private donations, so no tax dollars would have to be used.

The grant would be due by April, with a decision expected in July. The Commission hopes to be able to schedule the work to be completed by the spring of 2015.

About the clock

The clock is known officially as an E. Howard #1 striker tower clock. Situated approximately 112 feet above the ground in the courthouse bell tower, the clock was originally equipped with chimes that rang the 1,500-pound b-flat bell. The renovation project would include cleaning and rebuilding the existing bell hammer and installing a new cable.

Commission members recall hearing the bell chime each hour (once at one o'clock, twice at 2 o'clock, etc.) But during today's meeting, they could not agree on whether the clock also struck at the quarter- or half-hour. It's been eight to 10 years since the clock has kept time, and longer since its bell has rung out each hour.

About the project

The bid from Mechanical Watch Supply, LLC, includes the following:

1. Removal and installation of the clock from the existing clock room.

2. Complete disassembly of clock, and inspection for wear and damage.

3. Cleaning and conserving factory finish on all wheels, arbors and pinions and preservation with micro-crystalline wax.

4. Rebushing and polishing of pivots as required.

5. Cleaning and conserving all original painted surfaces.

6. Cleaning original universal joints.

7. Cleaning original motion works on all four dials.

8. Installation of original Howard Strike winding pinion and bushings.

9. Reinstallation of the restored original motion works and distribution system.

10. Synchronizing and testing for balance.

11. Installing new cables on the time and strike trains.

12. Installation of original Howard weights, pulleys, time drum, pendulum, stick, maintaining power click, verge, hangers and winding crank.

13. Installation of historically-accurate replicas of the escape wheel and pinions, fan, fan shaft, pinion, bushings, ratchet and chapter dial bezel.

14. Replacing dial centers as needed.

15. Installation of original hand hubs to new wood hands and counter-balance.

16. Cleaning and rebuilding existing bell hammer and installation of new cable.

17. Training and maintenance session to teach caretaker how to wind and care for clock.

The bid includes parts, labor, installation and transportation.

The company defines this project as a "conservation," not a renovation. Click HERE to see how the company defines the two.

Similar project in Clayton County

Commission members began working on the project after learning about the Clayton County clock project in Elkader in northeast Iowa. There, leaders applied for and received a REAP grant of $32,700 for a similarly-priced project. Clayton County leaders have pledged to spend $16,433 in matching funds.

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Comments (2)

Using the website, $2000 in 1906 (year the courthouse was finished, according to the Benton County Courthouse website) was an amount equivalent to approximately $52,700 in 2012. So, the repair cost is not all that different from the initial cost. I always remind my students that when examining prices from the past they must be converted to a modern equivalent (when possible to calculate) for the historic price to be comprehended.

Editor's note: Thanks, Mr. Vasquez; we wondered this when we wrote the story!!!!
By: Alexander Vasquez on January 20th 9:08pm
I think it would be wonderful if the clock worked again. I grew up in Vinton & I miss being able to look up at the clock or hear it & know what time it is. If they get the grant I know this community could come up with a way to pay the rest.
By: Linda Duffer on January 31st 10:57am

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