• Courthouse clock will chime again

  • Sixteen years ago, Mike Sanders started out as an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County, working on the Square in Independence.

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  • Sixteen years ago, Mike Sanders started out as an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County, working on the Square in Independence.
    Sanders has a sense of history, and he’s as enthusiastic as anyone about the Truman Courthouse, a building that dates to 1838. But something was wrong, he says, with the four clocks and the bell at the top of the building.
    “It never kept accurate time, the wind blew the hands around, and it didn’t chime,” he says.
    All that is changing.
    As part of the $5 million of the building’s interior overseen by Sanders – now county executive – the clock tower is being painstakingly restored. Old, rotted material is replaced, the clocks are being spiffed up, and the bell is being cleaned, refinished and re-installed – what Sanders called “just basic things that have never been done for two generations.”
    And the bell will chime again, on the hour.
    “The sound is beautiful. It’s got a great tone to it,” Sanders said this week.
    Expect to hear that – one ring at one o’clock, two at two o’clock, etc. – starting Sept. 7, when the building is rededicated. Officials say the contractor is on pace to be done by Aug. 20, so the county can start moving some offices over from the nearby Courthouse Annex, where most county functions in Eastern Jackson County are currently located. The plan is to open up space in the annex for more judges.
    That date of Sept. 7 wasn’t chosen randomly. It was on that date in 1933 that the building was rededicated after a renovation overseen by the county’s presiding judge, Harry Truman. Renovations since had changed the feel and function of the building somewhat, but now substantially everything is going back to what it was 80 years ago.
    “It really gives you that sense of history,” Sanders said.
    In some places up in the clock tower, wood is being replaced high-density polyurethane for longer wear. There’s sun, snow and rain, and Sanders points out that up that high the wind is almost constant. Still, he says, it should be good to go for at least another 20 years.
    There’s a bit of mystery about just how long it’s been since the bell – which is getting a new ringer – chimed. County officials couldn’t pin it down, and The Examiner asked around via Facebook, but that also was inconclusive. What’s known is that it’s been decades.
    The county tried to fix it in 2002, installing a solenoid bell ringer, but officials say the sound was dreadful. They turned it off.
    And the clocks had issues. Four clocks, four motors – often not in sync. That’s fixed now. The clockfaces have been sandblasted and painted. There are gold leaf Roman numerals to indicate the hour. And there’s one motor for all four synchonized clocks.
    Page 2 of 2 - Chris Martin of Piper-Wind Architects says things are going well as the project winds up.
    “All of that is getting finished and restored to its original appearance,” he said.
    The highly visible scaffolding around the top of the building, for work on the clock tower and cupola, should start coming down soon.
    The building looks more and more like its old self.
    “It brings you back,” Martin said, “to a historic time when this building was in its heyday.”

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