Mission continues to restore N. Mich. clock tower

Tower stirs strong feelings for the older generations of small U.P. community

By Abbey Hauswirth
The Mining Journal (Marquette)

GWINN, Mich. (AP) — It’s been more than five years since the Gwinn Clock Tower Restoration Committee began its mission to see the town clock reinstalled. With hopes that a bid can be selected by January, committee members said they believe they are close to reaching their goal and putting back in place what they call the “missing front tooth” of their community.

The clock was built in 1914 on top of what was then the fire station — now the police station. It cost $9,550. It was taken down in 1990 because of safety concerns.

Nearly 23 years later, many in Gwinn believe now is the time to reinstate the clock, though the increase in price since 1914 is proving to be a roadblock for committee members.
An artistic rendering of what the Gwinn Clock Tower Restoration Committee would like the tower to look like is seen. Due to funding issues, however, the committee is looking at erecting a “bare bones tower” that would eliminate the balconies. (UPEA image)

The highest reconstruction bid currently is at $140,000. This bid would produce an original replica of the clock tower from 1914. Committee members however, are looking at a bid closer to $80,000, which would not include balconies or windows and would reduce the tower height.

“What we’re looking at is what is known as a bare-bones tower. It would not include the balconies or windows from the original design; however, we would include anchors on the design so that if the money ever became available, we could add the balconies,” said Gerald Stille, chairman of the committee.

The committee has currently raised $53,400 and has met with U.P. Engineers & Architects to proceed with bid preparations.

Stille said the Forsyth Township Historical Society, a 501C3 nonprofit group, hopes to raise additional funds and the committee hopes to get a more favorable bid. He added that if the committee raised enough money, the township board could possibly help.

When the project initially began, donations were received at a steady pace. To date, 115 people have donated money toward the project. Over the past year however, those donations have tapered off and left the committee facing something of a financial hurdle.

“People are holding back on donating because they are worried where their money will go if this clock tower never gets re-erected,” Stille said.

Despite worries from the public, the committee is determined to succeed.

“The clock is going up. Period. We’re not going to give up,” said Jeanette Maki, the president and director of the Gwinn-Sawyer Area Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the restoration committee.

According to both Stille and Maki, the clock tower holds strong feelings for the older generations of the Gwinn area.

“That’s when kids knew it was time to come home from the swimming hole or other summer activities. It was when kids knew when to be home for supper,” Maki said.

Stille agreed, adding that while there have been many improvements in Gwinn, one of the most important ones is still missing.

The clock, which is stored in the township building’s basement, is intact and ready to run.

Maki said she has applied for two grants and they hope to receive replies soon. With the bid process hopefully happening in January, the committee’s ultimate goal is to have the clock tower up in the spring of 2013.

“We are a National Historic District,” Maki said. “Our hope is that a bidder out there will have a good, strong feeling for Gwinn and appreciate the historical value and want to be known as the bidder who rebuilt our clock.”