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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Library Tower

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 26, 2006

I was reading information about a clock tower along I-75 in the Dayton area, which was removed recently as the building was being demolished.

 

The 7-ton clock tower was removed by a crane to be placed in storage until a new home could be found for it.

 

Since 1955, the clock tower had kept the time on top of the Reynolds and Reynolds Building along the interstate highway.

 

Constructed in 1919, the clock had originally sat atop the Gem City Building in downtown Dayton.

 

Now it is going to storage.

 

For a moment, thoughts of replacing the top of our Main Library's tower crossed my mind, but a photo of the clock tower put those thoughts to rest.

 

While its height of 35 feet matches exactly the missing top to the library tower, the photo shows the clock tower to be smaller in diameter than our missing piece.

 

When the Carnegie building was constructed in 1901-02, it had a tower of 105 feet.

 

The design had four round openings for a clock, which was never installed.

 

Unfortunately, the design had two flaws.  The round openings for a clock extended into the point of the tower, creating a difficult point of roof flashing that caused never-ending leaks.

 

Secondly, the stone and terra cotta-faced tower had panels faced with brick at the 80-foot level.  Freezing and thawing caused the faces of these bricks to crumble and fall to the front steps and sidewalk.

 

A 1940 photo of the Main Library building showed water stains down the tower.  Round glass windows filled the clock face openings.

 

The roof of the library had lost its clay tile shingles around the tower, where bricks fell and broke the clay.

 

The tower was a constant problem, reflected in Board Meeting minutes.

 

Roofers were always ascending the ladders and steps inside the tower, trying another repair to the flashing or masonry.

 

As the tower deteriorated, the main roof deteriorated as well.  By 1953, the cost of repairs exceeded the total annual budget of the library.

 

A windstorm in 1955 answered the need to do something to the tower and roof.

 

Insurance monies, savings, and special allocations allowed the project to be completed in September 1956.

 

The top 35 feet of the tower was removed, and the entire roof was re-done with slate.

 

Fifty year later, we lament about the loss of the top of the tower.  Today we would have restored the tower and re-roofed with clay tile or something that looked like it.

 

The 1950s were a time before restoration, with limited funds that barely operated the library.

 

Maybe someday the library tower will find its top again, and maybe we'll have a clock like the original design outlined.