News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

News

March 23, 2013

19th Century machinery that operated massive Vigo County Courthouse clock on display

Clock-workings were assembled not long after Civil War

TERRE HAUTE — Despite receiving a multi-million-dollar facelift a few years ago, there is still plenty of history inside the walls of the Vigo County Courthouse.

One striking piece of that history is now on display inside a large glass case on the courthouse ground floor — the 19th Century machinery that operated the massive courthouse clock.

As with many local government structures, the Vigo County Courthouse features a big clock in its towering dome, more than 200 feet above the ground. For most of the past 120-plus years, that giant clock, which faces north, east, south and west, kept time thanks to the cast iron clockworks assembled in New England not long after the Civil War.

On direction from the Vigo County Commissioners, county maintenance workers and employees of Smith’s Bell and Clock Service of Mooresville, the massive machinery was dismantled, carefully carried down steep iron stairs and then reassembled on the ground floor of the courthouse. It is now standing inside a large glass case for anyone to see.

“It’s pretty unique,” said Jake Compton, director of maintenance for the historic courthouse, which was constructed in the 1880s. It took five people most of a full day to move the clock from the tower to the ground floor, he said.

The clock was installed in the courthouse in time for the building’s opening in 1888, said Mike McCormick, a Vigo County historian.

For more than a century, the clockworks stood inside the courthouse dome with four, long iron rods extending to the faces of the four clock faces. Those rods slowly rotated, moving the hands on all four clock faces at the same time, Compton said.

The company that made the clock in the 1880s, the E. Howard Clock Co. of Boston, Mass., guaranteed it to operate for 200 years, Compton said. It was still functioning about two years ago when the county switched to a fully electronic system, he said.

For many decades, it was necessary for someone to climb the steep stairs into the tower to wind the clock each day, Compton noted. He also discovered original instructions for oiling and maintaining the machinery, which will also eventually become part of the courthouse display.

E. Howard Clock Co. was a nationwide supplier of large, sophisticated clocks in the latter half of the 19th Century. According to documents Compton uncovered in studying the clock’s history, the company also sold clocks in the 1880s to Rose-Hulman (then called Rose-Polytechnic) and H.F. Schmidt, a jeweler, watchmaker and engraver in Terre Haute. Courthouses and town halls in several Indiana cities had or have E. Howard clocks, including Indianapolis, Greencastle, Danville and Vincennes.

The heavy clock was disassembled and moved downstairs in early March. In doing the job, workers took photographs and labeled the parts carefully so they could reassemble the clock, Compton noted. They were also dealing with some heavy materials. The cast iron base of the clock weighs an estimated 500 pounds, he said.

Today, the clock atop the Courthouse dome is operated by small electronic boxes behind each clock face. And an electronic signal now cause the big bell two floors below to mark the hours.

Vigo County Commissioner Mike Ciolli was the driving force behind moving the old clock from the tower to the ground floor of the Courthouse, a job that cost the county about $3,000, including the glass and wooden case in which the clock is on display, he said.

“It’s something numerous people have been interested in seeing,” Ciolli said of the antique. But getting most people up the narrow stairs into the tower is “almost impossible,” so putting it on display seemed like a good solution, he said. The alternative was to leave it in the tower to deteriorate over time, he said.

“It’s part of the history of the Courthouse,” Ciolli said of the old clock. “I just felt we should share it.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record
NDN Video
Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News