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Prairie City News

The clock rings true

Community celebrates courthouse clocktower restoration

After months of work, the clock tower at the Jasper County Courthouse is up and running and back to its historic beginnings. A rededication ceremony was held June 22 for the clocktower to celebrate the work it took to make the landmark a focal point in downtown Newton.

“This building... it stands as an instrument, it stands as a symbol, of self government on the part of the people who live here and vote here,” Jasper County Senior Court Judge Thomas Motts said.

Motts was the keynote speaker at the event and spoke on the history about the courthouse from its humble beginnings in a log cabin to the construction of its current location in 1847. County maintenance director Adam Sparks, who spearheaded the efforts, also spoke about the work it took to complete the project and the hurdles he faced along the way. He said the hardest part of the project was finding glass that matched the historic look of the original clock to satisfy the grant. The project was one of 27 selected across Iowa to receive a Historical Resource Development Grant and Country School Grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa

“We have the old glass but half of it was broke, so we didn’t want to piece the glass back together to where you as a citizen would look at it and see an old dirty piece next to a clean piece,” Sparks said.

After working with the historical society, they were able to agree upon new glass for the clock and Smith’s Bell and Clock Company, the contractor used for the job, were able to restore the timepiece to it’s original glory. The clock itself was also taken back to historical specifications, now running on weights and instead of electricity. Sparks said it took a while to figure out the appropriate weights to use since they did not have the originals. Workers resorted to trial and error to get the weights balanced and the clock set to the correct time — not running too fast or too slow.

“You will never get it exactly but you will get it close,” Sparks said.

The weights on the clock are 120 pounds but they will change in the winter and the summer as the clock speeds up and slows down. Sparks said continual adjustments will be needed to keep it as close to accurate as possible.

The bell was also placed back in the clock tower after residing on the courthouse lawn since it was removed during a 1980s renovation. The bell and clock are both date back to 1910.

While visitors are unable to view the clocktower in person, a television with a continual video stream of the clock and its many mechanisms is available to view in the west lobby of the courthouse. A plaque also hangs in the lobby naming those to worked and gave donations to the restoration of the clock through the years.

“It is a neat project for me and everyone at the courthouse,” Sparks said. “It is neat to see what it has done for the community, I have received a lot of great comments on it.

“To bring it back to its 1910 state and not take the easy route, I’m glad the board of supervisors and county decided spend the money and spend it wisely. That is not only good for us but all of Jasper County.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com

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