Time line beginning January 2012. Also scroll down for still pictures.
While in Willard to settle my mothers estate and while living in her house for six weeks I wondered about the clock tower as I would drive through town looking at the old City Hall. After 15 years of wondering what happen to the Clock I made a decision to ask about it.
I contacted City Manager (at the time) Brian Humphress and ask what happened to the clock. I was surprised to find out the clock was in terrible shape and the city had no plans on rebuilding the clock. We had lost the bell tower section and the dome was in bad shape sitting out in the open. I asked if I could take the project on with a volunteer group and private donations. Brian said I could with the understanding that the city could not help with any tax payer money or volunteer labor down the road. So at that time my adventure began!
Mid May 2012:
First I began looking for information from the original group that formed the 2000 committee that tried to save the clock. Only 3 from the original group were still around. I found Bill Alford who was the lead guy for the group. He had all the info including a video of the clock being taken down.
Late May 2012:
After calling Bill and talking with him he agreed to send me all the information he had on the clock. Old newspaper articles, letters and estimates on the cost of the clock to rebuild at that time. He also had a few pictures from the archives including a video on VHS tape. Being an old format that was my first problem finding a way to transfer the video to a modern format which was done. My next step was to figure out my plan. What and how to do it. I first spoke with Todd Shininger the city mayor. Todd was one of the gentlemen who actually saved the clock from being destroyed and hauled off to the dump in 2000 when it was found to be in bad shape and needed completely replaced. He explained to me what happened and why the clock sat outside all those years. Next came the former city manager Paul Capelle. He explained to me the back story . Paul was a great city manager doing quit allot for the city in his day, and a great source of information.
Next step look for volunteers for a planning committee. I can't tell you how many phone calls and letters I sent out to people from all types of business and people I knew who were still around. No one really took me up on it. I think they were so used to things failing in town I was next in line and would fail. Little did they know! I was once told by a cousin that my uncle said once Rick gets his teeth into something he doesn't let go. He was right, I don't give up too easily! I continued for the next year putting together a video of lost buildings in town and of course looked for information on the clock. After finding out the old City Hall was getting torn down I rethought my plans. I really didn't want to rebuild a tower and to be honest wasn't too excited with that location. I went ahead and hand drew a set of plans for just the clock portion thinking I could locate it on the parking lot of the New City Hall in town. It would only take up a couple parking places. From what my mother said in the late 90's they were going to place the clock on the new city hall after it was refurbished. Determined I just wanted to salvage what I could and get a carpenter to donate his time and I'd raise 5 to 6 thousand dollars for the lumber. I'd rebuild the clock shell and make it look like it did in 1913. Then park it on the new city hall parking lot and hoped someone else would take it on. That idea wasn't in the works since the city asked to have it back on the same site it sat before. So the plans changed and continue to change by the month.
With a background in radio broadcasting meaning I wasn't shy and had promotional work experience as well and as working as a Director for the Indiana March of Dimes office the last ten years of my working career I knew I could raise the money with some local weight behind it. I put together a proposal for the Willard Area Historical Society and called their president, Marty Sowers,
who I knew from school. We actually worked together in radio in 1985 to 87 for WSWR before I moved on to bigger and better things. He let me come in and ask the group to team up and we could rebuild the clock. They declined to help build the clock.
They explained to me why the group couldn't do it. The reason being the group was an older bunch and not many with the expertise to do the work any longer. I not wanting to cause any injury to anyone I ask for any help they could give. It's been about a year and a half now since that meeting and as of this writing the Historical Society will vote on a major donation in September of 2014.
I let it go for a few months trying to figure out what to do. I had one last call to make. I called Brain Humphress in October of 2012. After asking who else I could talk with he ask me if I had spoken to Don Graham and I said no not yet. I knew Don was involved with the Train Platform and I didn't want to start conflict with two major projects in town at the same time. He was the only one I had not contacted in town. Brain encouraged me to at least call. I did and Don said he'd try and help.
We were entering into the Holiday season and knew we'd be up against the wall making any forward progress.
A few months later after a few calls with several others I realized things just were not happening. I called Don, Paul Capelle and Todd Shininger and told them I was finally done with it. It had been almost a year of trying with nothing happening and I didn't want to beat a dead horse. There were lots of yes I'd support that, but no one volunteered for a planning committee or even make a call for me. No one wanted to really do anything and being 300 miles away I decided I could not do it alone. During my calls to Don,Paul and Todd each one of them asked me not to give up they could make it happen and to give it some more time. This was late April/early May 2013 and I said I'd give them time to show me they could do it. Don asked for what I had done. I sent him everything and when he saw what I had, that changed his thinking. He was as he put it amazed at the work I had put into the project, from a hand drawn set of plans, donation brochure to the videos and letters I sent out. So he was on board full throttle.
Fast forward a year May 2014:
By now we have a small committee put together and looking to expand that group. Two elderly gentleman have donated $5000 each. To date we have raised about $15,000 in cash and a few large pledges. We are working on job estimates for the clock. Janotta and Herner a local design and construction firm made a rendering of what the clock could look like. They took our brochure redesigned it and tweaked it and we have 18,000 of those out in the community. They have also bid on the project as well. They have been a great company to work with on this. Several newspapers (Sandusky Register, Norwalk Reflector and the Willard Times) have done a couple stories on the Clock drive. Don did a 30 minute interview on a local Mansfield TV station. We continue to raise money and the estimates are rolling in. Don is revamping/adding to the committee and getting a business plan together from a friend at Ashland College. We hope to break ground on a footer system by the end of the year and hope that keeps the ball rolling. I will say to everyone this isn't a quick thing. It's taken over two years to date just to get this far and every clock group across the country I spoken with says never set deadlines because you will never meet them. Bumps in the road come daily, fix one and another pops up. That has been true to date. So we'll see where we go from here. It does look promising! If you are this far on our site think about doing more and become a part of it!
The clock dome and parts moved inside for storage out of the weather. Parts will be looked at for repair, painting and storage until needed for rebuild.
February 2015 :
Final rendering accepted and completed for show. promotional videos set to be completed for Facebook and social media.
Presentation at State of the City address. Secure material cost guarantee from companies.
Notified of a donation of accent lighting for the Clock Tower from a former Willard Graduate based now in California. Environmental lights is owned by Anne Thorson and her husband. We appreciate this kind of support for the clock project.
The Willard, Ohio Rediscovering Willard book came out. A pictorial history of Willard and written memories from people who grew up in Willard. Written by Rick Reed the founder of Save Willard's Clock. This book is a fundraiser for the project and has become a huge success toward rebuilding the clock tower. 600 pages of old photos and history mixed with modern day photos.
A $20,000 match for the tower was established by a former Willardite who lives in Texas. She'll match dollar for dollar up to 20,000 toward the clock tower. As it stands we are within site of saying build the clock tower. We are close to getting it up and running with only the brick facade to raise money for afterward.
Due to a cost increase with the original clock company we decided to rebid the clock tower and see if we could get a better price. 4 companies were chosen for bids. By the fall we finally received bids from 3 of those companies and decided on Americlock. They received the go ahead to build. We were placed in line with other builds.
Covid-19 hit the country and the lockdowns started and we were placed on hold for awhile, but then by the fall, materials for other builds were slowing things down.
We had a July date for delivery of a new clock tower but production had stopped on other builds because of copper and material shortages. Prices of lumber, copper and steel started going up.
Construction slowly gets started again after a year of pandemic. Steel is welded together for the leg section, studs are placed in, stairs and ladder section constructed. Plywood skins is attached. bell section is being worked on.
Construction of clock tower build steam and sets delivery date as produces and materials are recovering from pandemic. labor issue the past two years have been resolved. Copper is being added to the clock tower. Brick façade is ordered. Crane is scheduled. Finishing touches are being added to tower. Trucking company is ordered for clock tower delivery. April 11, 2023 is set for erection of tower in Willard.
Photos by Kevin Casto.