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Elk County Courthouse Tower Clock

12/03/2012

by Shirley Black/Flint HIlls Express

Chime the Time

The Elk County Courthouse finally has a clock. It's a beautiful clock that chimes the hour during the day and silently glows the time during the night. The original 1907 courthouse blue prints show a clock was planned for installation nearly 100 years ago when the courthouse was built, but the courthouse has never had a clock in the tower. Apparently the county ran out of money before the clock could be installed and one was never purchased. This clock is identical to the one on the original plans.

The Register of Deeds has the original land indenture from 1886 when the city of Howard sold the Elk County Board of Commissioners and the state of Kansas the land for the courthouse for one dollar. Mayor J. Burchfield and City Clerk Asa Thompson both signed the indenture papers. The register of deeds who filed the indenture was J. M. Gwin. Our current yellow brick courthouse was built to replace a red brick courthouse that burned nearly to the ground in 1905. The current courthouse was built in the same location on the same land as the old courthouse.

The 1907 courthouse has undergone several revisions, the largest being the renovation to add the elevator during the 1970s. The top of the elevator shaft is actually in the bottom of the clock tower. This change made the clock installation very interesting. The elevator shaft nearly completely blocks the only access door to the tower. There is a 14 foot high wall that is 12 feet long just two feet inside the doorway. A person can walk through the passageway, but we were unable to bring clock parts through the passage. An 85 foot bucket truck was rented from United Rentals in Wichita to give us access to the clock tower from the outside. David Seay, master clockmaker from Manhattan, and his assistant moved the supplies, material and themselves up to the tower via the bucket truck. David Seay was assisted by Patrick Perkins, from PEP Electric, as well as Bob Black, John Black and John Cooke.

The glass for the clock faces came in several pie shaped pieces to allow ease of transport and installation. The numbers and frame are wrought iron. Currently the clock chimes on the hour from 8 am to 10 pm and is silent through the night. We have several chime and melody options to explore in the future.

Many thanks to all who donated to the lovely clock. Donations can still be sent to the Elk County Community and Education Foundation at PO Box 956, Howard, KS 67349.