Preserving parts of tower is right move

Published 9:00 am Saturday, November 25, 2017

In every town there are man-made structures that add to the aesthetic beauty of the community. These often become community treasures and icons in many cases.

One such treasure in Winchester is the beautiful and historic Clark County Courthouse. Atop the easily-recognizable pearly white courthouse was the iconic clock and bell tower. Until last month, the tower was one of the first signs residents and visitors were nearing downtown Winchester. The clock could be seen towering above the other downtown buildings from every direction.

Many a spectacular photo and paintings have captured the spectacular site that was the courthouse tower. The tower became a sort-of logo for Winchester-Clark County, and a beautiful one it was.

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As with any aging structure, the time has come for the tower to get a facelift. Years of wear and tear from the elements left the tower with structural issues, causing it to leak into the courthouse when it rained. The Clark County Fiscal Court has been talking for a couple of years about the need and desire for a restoration project. Last month that project started, and the man-made landscape of downtown Winchester has been altered.

It’s a strange sight to be traveling toward Main Street on Lexington Avenue and not be reminded you are nearing downtown as the tower comes into view.

Today, the tower rests in two pieces on Cleveland Avenue as crews work to disassemble the structure. It is a rare opportunity to see the tower at a distance few ever have. An up-close look shows the decades of wear on the structure and proves this project was much-needed, and came just in time.

Thankfully, the Clark County Fiscal Court took steps this week to preserve some of the iconic and sentimental parts of the tower. The court voted Wednesday to save the four clock faces, the copper in the copula and any bricks that can be salvaged and won’t be needed when the new tower is installed this spring.

These clock faces will be displayed in various areas of the community — perhaps in the courthouse, at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum or even the planned welcome center at the old Sphar building — and the bricks will possibly be sold at an auction to members of the community who wish to own a piece of the county’s history.

The courthouse is a special and important part of our community. While the courthouse serves many practical purposes, from record filing to legal proceedings, there are also many special moments that take place there. Many a local couple have filed for their marriage licenses and others were married there. Teenagers celebrated the special right of passage of earning their driver’s license. Families have been made legally whole during adoption proceedings. Outside, the community has gathered to celebrate beer cheese, local music, downtown businesses and various holidays. Other times, the courthouse steps have been a public gathering place for vigils, memorial services and even public protests.

All the while, this iconic clock and bell towered above.

We are happy to see the courthouse getting the attention it needs through this project. More so, we are glad to see the fiscal court taking steps to preserve this special and sentimental piece of Clark County history.