By Craig Shoup
Times-Junction Staff Writer
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the original clock tower in Willard. After the former city hall building was built in in the late 1800's, city officials thought the 2 South Myrtle Avenue building was missing something.The city erected a clock tower to sit on top of the building. Built in 1914, the clock tower quickly helped City Hall become the tallest building in the city. According to former Willard resident Rick Reed, the clock tower is the last iconic figure of the city once known as Chicago Junction before being changed to Willard in 1917. After decades of use, the clock began having problems in the 1990's. Reed noted the clocked stopped working and was in need of repair. In April 1997, Reed said a committee sought to remove the clock and restore it for future use. He noted the plan was to remove the tower in pieces that would cost $1,200. After it was completed, the removal of the clocked cost $16,000. In 2000, the committee asked for, and received, three estimates on the clock repair from three different clocksmith companies, added Reed. The average cost was $200,000. Reed said interest began to fade as the prices began to rise. In more recent years, the committee began removing the protective siding protecting the clock from rain and snow. He noted the bell tower section began to deteriorate and was lost. The dome still exists but is considered to be in bad shape. As the 100th anniversary of the clock tower began approaching, Reed said he, along with other members of the community, set out to restore the tower to its rightful position. After the former city hall building was razed in 2013, Reed said there would be a perfect space to recreate the clock tower. He said spearheading the project in Willard is Donald Graham. "I approached (city manager) Brian (Humphress) two years ago about the tower. He said there was grant money available, but it was matching," he said. "With the grants you can only apply for the money at a certain time." Reed said a new committee was started with the hope of raising enough money to restore the clock tower. "We only have a few hundred dollars right now. We are looking to raise $100,000. It is going to be expensive," he said. "It will be built to last the next 100 years. "Within the next few weeks we are hoping to pass out brochures around to area businesses," added Reed. "There is no deadline for the project. We will probably go until the clock is done." Because the clock has not been evaluated, Reed said the $100,000 is just an estimate. Another expense that is yet to be determined is construction for building the tower. The committee has not bid out the potential project because they are waiting to hear how much the clock restoration will cost. The new tower will be built to mimic the iconic clock tower from 1914. Reed pointed there will be two differences spectators will see with the new clock. The first difference is that it will be motor-less. Removing the motor will save weight and will allow them to properly balance the weight throughout the 45 foot tower. He said an electronic clock will be used and will weigh less the than the motor. In order to keep some of the nostalgia, Reed said the motor will be displayed at the base of the tower where visitors can look through glass opening to see it. The outside of the clock will look identical to the original, which can cause issues with funding. "The clock will be four-sided and will be made of acrylic," he noted. "The only difference from the original is that it will be enclosed to prevent birds getting in it and to withstand weather." With the clock being enclosed, Reed said the plan is to add lights to illuminate the clock at night. The clock will be evaluated to see what pieces can be used and what needs to be replicated or restored. One piece that will be missing from the updated tower will be the bell weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds that once rang through the city. Once the tower is complete, Reed said he is hoping a time capsule will be placed inside the building. Fourth grade students at Richmond Elementary recently finished a clock tower pointalism picture depicting images of the rendered drawings. Reed pointed out one of the drawings will be placed in the time capsule along with other items from elementary students. "I thought it would be funny to place a bill in the time capsule saying whoever opens it has to pay it," Reed said. "When they open it 50 years from now, I hope students can see what they put in it as kids." This project is donation driven, according to Reed. He said the best way to make a donation towards the project is by making checks payable to City of Willard/Clock Tower Restoration. All donations can mailed to P.O. Box 367 Willard, OH 44890.