December 09, 2021

Progress made in clock tower restoration

Efforts to restore the clock tower in the Jasper County Courthouse took a step forward with a $44,500 grant awarded to the project by the State Historical Society of Iowa. Jasper County Maintenance Director Adam Sparks explained the grant and the newest bid received to complete the work to the Jasper County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Announced last week, the county, by way of the Newton Historic Preservation Commission, received a Historical Resource Development Grant and Country School Grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa to be used on the restoration of the clock tower. The project was one of 27 projects in 25 Iowa communities awarded grant funds.

Sparks has been working on the project, gathering bids and completing the necessary work to receive grant funding. He originally presented the project to the board earlier this year and updated the board on its current status after receiving the grant funds.

“We had one bid to start off on, which was more than $120,000 from a gentleman out of Minnesota,” Sparks said. “We looked at a couple of other people and found another company out of Indiana.”

Smith’s Bell and Clock Company submitted a bid of $80,893 for work which includes real glass used in the restoration, about $40,000 less than the original cost estimate. With the new bid, the grant funds will cover more than half of the work.

A second bid from Smith’s was also presented at $54,356 for work which includes acrylic glass used in the restoration. Sparks said he is waiting to hear back from the historical society on specifications for the remodel to determine which material will need to be used.

The restoration time was also greatly reduced in Smith’s bid, with the original time line expected to take up to 18 months and Smith quoting an eight to 12 week project time.

“Once we send it out, this company will have it back to us probably within three months time,” Sparks said. “I don’t know when actually we can get started, it is yet to be determined, but I’d like to think we can get started by the end of August and, best case scenario, we have this thing put in there by the lighting ceremony before Christmas gets here, something in that area.”

The entirety of the clock will be restored, inside and out, with everything leaving the building during the restoration time. When completed, it will be back in 1910 working order, complete with the weight system and original bell.

“(After the 1985 remodel) they powered the clock with electricity instead of the weights,” Sparks said. “(Following the restoration) everything will be there that was there in 1910, the only thing we will add is auto winders so nobody will ever have to go up and touch the clock. The bell that is on the corner (of the courthouse lawn) will be put back up in the clock tower and put back to use. We will have to figure out how many times it will ring during the day.”

As a part of the requirements for the grant, the public must have a way to see the clock, besides just from the outside of the building. Sparks said they have a plan to put a camera by the clock and add a television in the west lobby of the courthouse to have a real time view of the clock working.

“It is a way for the public to see what work was done and where the money was spent, because most people will never be able to go up there and see it,” Sparks said.

Along with the television, additional historical documents will be displayed showing the history of the clock.

“This building was not going to have a clock in 1910, the only way it received the clock was they put out for the members of Jasper County to donate a $1,” Sparks said. “They tried to get $1,000 and they ended up getting $1,200 and that is why they have the clock today. Without it, the courthouse would have been built without the clock.”

While the project has had many enthusiastic supporters, supervisor Doug Cupples was not always 100 percent on board. Following the recent presentation, he gave his full support to restoring the clock to its original glory.

“In the beginning of this whole thing, I have to say, I was a little iffy if the investment was there,” Cupples said. “You have taken all my doubts away with your research, thank you for your work.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or