Greenfield courthouse clock tower restored

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GREENFIELD, Ind. – As Hoosiers prepare to turn their clocks forward, one community is turning theirs back on.

About a month ago the hands on the Greenfield courthouse clock stopped turning.

J.J. Smith, the repairman hired by the county says the malfunction was caused by a set screw, which likely came loose due to a buildup of ice.

Smith is the president of Smith's Bell and Clock Service. After finishing repairs he spoke with FOX59 about the historic clock. For him, each clock has its own story to tell.

They are stories told by iron and steel, turning slowly for decades.

"A lot of blood sweat and tears went into building this thing," said Smith.

The inner workings are ensconced in history. Scrawled on the walls in graphite lead are the signatures of visitors more than a century ago.

Smith admires the original mechanics still sitting in the tower.

"You can see where the old weight stacks are,” Smith said. “You can see the old knob and tube."

In the 1950s, the original weight system was replaced with an electronic motor, but many of the other parts and gears are 1896 originals.

In addition to restoring the motor's functionality, the wooden hands were also replaced with aluminum.

A couple of them were damaged, or broken due to weather.

The county believes the new hardware will hold up a long time.

Hancock County Commissioner Brad Armstrong says maintenance is a must. It's not just because of the service it provides, but the symbol it has become.

"You know it’s really the heart of our county," said Armstrong. "It has historical significance and we’re very proud of it."

He says it's a labor of love, and a reason to ascend into the cold dark tower on 19th century stairs. When it stops working, he says the community notices.

"I think that speaks to how significant it is as a symbol of our community because obviously everyone tells time on their cellphone. It’s not really the best way to keep track of time, but people want to hear the bell ring on the hour."

Smith believes they will, 50 or even 100 years in the future.

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