Repairs completed on Bartholomew County Courthouse clock

Republic file photo Repairs are made to an area near the Bartholomew County Courthouse clock in 2015.

Columbus’ favorite timepiece, the Bartholomew County Courthouse tower clock, is working again, thanks to the unique skills of craftsman Phil Wright, who has completed repairs on the 150-year-old clock for more than 30 years.

“That courthouse is just absolutely beautiful,” said Wright, owner of the Tower Clock Company located east of Dayton in the town of South Charleston, Ohio.

Although Wright does significant travelling to repair and maintain tower clocks across the eastern United States, the Bartholomew County Courthouse has always been one of his favorites, he said.

“It’s really kind of stunning on the outside,” Wright said.

The Ohio craftsman is far from alone in that assessment. With its Second Empire architectural style, the Issac Hodgson-designed courthouse is considered one of the top architectural attractions in Columbus. Tourism officials have long maintained the importance of having the clock operational during peak tourism times.

According to Wright, the clock model – a #4 E. Howard – is one of only 17 built. Since Bartholomew County’s tower clock is either the first or second of its kind to be installed, it is considered a museum piece, he said.

“They actually did artwork on the cast iron pieces, which is very unusual considering that nobody was ever going to see it,” Wright said.

The latest breakdown was the result of a couple of bushings that became stuck, likely by a mixture of old oil and brass power, within the mechanism, Wright explained. The bushings were so worn that it made it extremely difficult to pull them apart, he said.

Wright took much of the mechanism back to his workshop and created replacement parts by machine tooling, he said. He also had to fashion a new metal shaft, county maintenance director Rick Trimpe said.

When the tower clock last broke down in September 2019, a small electric motor installed in the 1940s had burned up, causing all the gears to melt. Wright said replacement gears had to be custom-built, and a new 2 rpm motor manufactured by Hurst Motors of Princeton, Indiana was installed.

The latest repairs came with a price tag of $6,200. Five years ago, it was $3,200.

The estimated value of the clock itself is somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000, Wright said.