Town clock makeover will make it look the same

PAT FRIDGEN
The town clock is undergoing repairs and if everything falls into place, the work should be completed this fall. Crews from GRC Contracting have been scaling the heights to get at the structure from all angles.

Greencastle’s 1872 town clock, atop Tower Bank, is undergoing renovations. While often in preparation for Old Home Week Greencastle Borough Council authorizes the landmark’s painting, this year it decided to go full speed ahead on preserving the structure itself. All should be shipshape long before OHW in August 2010.

The pricetag has gone up as workers uncover what lays beneath. But the first price increase had nothing to do with the integrity of the clock tower.

Cushwa & Stouffer Architects, Hagerstown, was hired as the consulting firm and provided the initial assessment.

On Aug. 18 council hired GRC General Contractor, Greencastle, to make repairs. Theirs was the low bid of $38,000. That went up to $46,230 once the borough was alerted by the Department of Labor and Industry that prevailing wage had to be paid.

The company began to replace balusters and restore wood that was decayed, cracked or missing. As they got to the innermost parts of the structure, they found more deterioration than expected. As a result, council on Nov. 2 authorized a change order, which added another $15,453 to the overall cost.

Borough manager Kenneth Womack said the borough budgeted higher than initally suggested by Cushwa, anticipating additional expenses. It set aside $75,000, so is still $13,000 ahead.

Council president Charles Eckstine questioned whether Cushwa should have caught more of the deficiencies. Womack said he was impressed with the firm’s work. Mayor Robert Eberly added that the problem stemmed from water soaking into the wood from the bottom of the balusters.

GRC is painting portions of the tower now. Balusters are being taken indoors to dry before epoxy is used for the permanent fixes. When they are returned to the roof, they will no longer sit flat in metal pans, but be elevated on rubber pads to avoid the moisture. Some newly-found rotted crown molding is also being replaced.

Womack told council to expect a little more cost because the metal roof was also noted as in disrepair, and the remedy could run several thousand dollars. But he was optimistic about the entire project.

“I think we’re doing it right. The town clock will be functional and appear the same from the street, and last a long time. This work has been needed for a long, long time.”

History

The booklet ‘A Brief History of First National Bank’, the precursor to Tower, contains a history of the town clock as well. The bank was intended to have a flat roof. The first cashier, L.H. Fletcher, watched the construction in 1870 with a few other men. Rev. John Eshleman told bank founder and director George W. Ziegler to put a town clock on the top.

The 11 directors agreed if the money was privately raised. Fletcher took on the task and had hundreds of dollars promised within hours. The board authorized a change to the roof with Captain Joseph B. Strickler the architect in charge.

The town clock was purchased from Howard Clock Company in Boston for $500 and erected in 1872 by that company. The bell cost $300 and the entire tower $1,000. So for $1,800 Greencastle obtained a recognizable symbol that has lasted 137 years, and should stand for many years to come.

Lighting was donated by the Loyal Daugthers, an OHW organization, so that the clock is visible even at night.

An agreement on ownership of the clock, long accepted by the community and bank, was made official last March. It is owned and maintained by the borough and the bank pays for the electricity.