The Montesano Courthouse Clock has stood on top of its building since its inception in 1910. The project to restore the clock fell upon the shoulders of Mark Cox, who has worked for Grays Harbor County since 1996. Currently the Director of Utility, Facility and Community Development, he supervises a crew that handles all the County facilities in Montesano, including maintenance and custodial work.
So why was the clock a priority to be fixed? “We have been fighting with our clockwork for years,” Mark explains. “It’s originally from 1910, and we were having issues with some gears that had cracked and other parts of the components where they were getting bent from clicking back and forth for so long. Ultimately, there was no way for us to be able to fix that clock in a method to where we could retain and use it. It was too old.”
Since the clock is 112 years old, there aren’t any locals that could fix it. “A company flew back and forth from Missouri because it’s a very specific type of profession,” explains Mark. “They travel all over the country and world working on clock towers, clockworks and clock bells, like the churches that have belltowers. It was determined that they could fix the original clockwork for about $30K, but there was no guarantee it would hold time. It finally came down that the unit was getting too expensive to maintain so we decided to replace it for about $8K. They flew in and installed a new control unit. It doesn’t change the look of the clocktower, no one can tell anything has changed from the exterior, but now the clock keeps time. The new unit automatically adjusts to daylight savings time, and when power goes out it has its own battery backup that will automatically readjust the clock dials and adjust itself as needed.”
He is proud to say that residents can now set their own clocks to it for the first time ever.
History of the Clocktower
When the clock was installed in 1910, the original crate the eight-foot clock came in became the protective housing for the inner workings of the clock. Over the years, anyone that worked or maintained it signed their names and dated it. The crate still stands in the clocktower as a memorial, a time capsule in and of itself. Citizens from all over would take the tour during the Festival of Lights, making the arduous climb via ladder into the clocktower to add their name to memorialize the trek to the top. Sadly, public tours are no longer allowed due to liability issues, but I was lucky enough to get a special tour where the original clockwork is laid out inside the tower. “We are going to take the old clockwork down and put it on display because it’s artwork,” Mark promises.
The courthouse where the clock stands has its own story. “It is an amazing sight and makes you feel like you’re in a place of serious business,” Mark shares. “Walking into the courthouse there’s a shock and awe feel when you walk through those superior courtroom doors. You know it’s real.”
The original fixtures still adorn the walls and incredible murals are found along the stairwell, as well as in each courtroom. They not only depict the history of the county, make you feel like you are stepping back in time. Even the ceiling is a work of art. “The artwork people think is the dome above the clock but it’s not,” explains Mark. “The stained glass is kind of an optical illusion. Pretty ingenious how they designed it.”
Another interesting tidbit is that the Montesano Courthouse used to be the Chehalis County Courthouse until 1915. So, if you ever walk inside, you’ll see a graphic on the floor with two Cs, standing for Chehalis County. “After an earthquake, we were doing some repairs and when we pulled off the Grays Harbor County plate in front of the building, we could see it used to say Chehalis County Courthouse,” Mark points out.
In addition, the original cornerstone with a time capsule inside is still visible on the building. Mark hopes to replace it with a new time capsule and remove the old one for all to see.
The Montesano Courthouse Clock that ticked its way into the 21st century has a great steward in Mark Cox who will continue to ensure it continues to keep time for all those who pass through it.