Friday, July 6, 2012
Why are there no hands on the historic Georgetown Clock Tower?
The answer to that question depends on whom you ask.
In February, Dave Verdin, owner of the Verdin Company, which is manufacturing new hands in Cincinnati, Ohio, told the Georgetown Times that new hands could be installed in 30 days.
Jim Fitch, director of The Rice Museum, said the building belongs to Georgetown County, so County Council Chairman Johnny Morant would know why the hands had not been installed. Morant was unavailable this week because of the holiday.
County Administrator Sel Hemingway said the county contacted Verdin a few weeks ago and told them to come anytime and install them.
Verdin spokeswoman Suzanne Sizer said Tuesday the company was told that work was still being done on the inside of the building and the company should hold off on delivering the hands.
Hemingway did not return a call Tuesday seeking further comment.
The old hands were removed after being frozen on 4:27 for years after the tower was struck by lightning in May 2007.
In 1841, a fire swept through downtown Georgetown. To create a firebreak, the old wooden market building at Front and Screven streets was torn down.
The current brick structure was built in 1842 on the site of the old market building. The clock tower was added in 1845. In 1970, The Rice Museum opened in the building beneath the tower.
The Town Clock was damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
In 2006, minor repairs to exterior wood were done, along with some painting.
The state donated $100,000 for repairs in 2006, and Georgetown County allocated $50,000 in 2007. Another $20,000 in insurance money was received in 2007 after the lightning strike.
Georgetown County Council approved $75,000 in accommodations tax money in 2007, and then granted three extensions on the money after it wasn’t used.
In May 2009, Fitch told the Georgetown Times the $375,000 needed to do the repair work had been secured, including $100,000 from the “Save America’s Treasures” program.
Consultants arrived in Georgetown in January 2010 to investigate what repairs were needed.
Repairs stalled in the late summer of 2010 because renovation plans needed to be approved by the National Park Service.
Fitch said many of the problems stemmed from the age of the Town Clock and past repairs that weren’t done correctly.
“It’s repairing the mortar and repairing the roof, and, of course, the clock will be working again,” Fitch said in October 2010.
By Christmas Eve 2010, scaffolding surrounded the tower and work had begun thanks in part to a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
In February 2011, the bell in the tower was removed and antique bricks and new mortar were being added.
By Chris Sokoloski