The Grundy County Courthouse: Part 1

Monday, June 30, 2014

A couple Thursdays ago, my family and I visited the Grundy County Courthouse.  Our county auditor, Rhonda Deters, had kindly arranged with the custodian, Mark Jungling, to give us a tour of the clock tower! 

The courthouse was built in 1891.  Mark told us its walls are 18 inches thick.  The contractor did the job for the county for $47,000 but went bankrupt in the process because he had to haul all the stones from the railroad by horse power.  The county paid over four times that amount ($194,000) in 2012 for a new roof and over twice the cost ($100,000) in 2008 when they replaced the courthouse's 75 windows.

 We took the elevator from the floor of the auditor's office to the attic. 
The attic was full of old files, record books, and copies of the old Iowa Code.

 Records were done in handwriting.  In 1867 it cost $0.65 for a deed and $0.55 for a power of attorney.  We noticed a lot of old names that filed for different things, including George Wells who founded Wellsburg.  Other last names were Conrad (there's a town nearby of that name), Churchill, Smith, Nederhoff, Johnson, and Geiken.  
The attic ceiling was reminiscent of what you would see in an old barn and added a distinctly Iowan touch to the building.
From the attic we climbed the stairs to the works of clock.
As you can faintly see in the above picture, the walls of the small room where the works are are covered with dates and signatures; we were encouraged to add ours.  Although we're usually not fond of graffiti, this seems to be a type of guest book, and it was fascinating to see the various names signed throughout the decades (including neighbors and friends).

A few years ago, the clock would lose time whenever the minute hand made its upward journey.  Mark, who is the only one who knows how to run the clock, called the phone number of the company that fixed the clock in 1958.  The number was still in the family of the man who had fixed the clock, but his children didn't know how to fix it.  

They gave him the phone number of an 83-year old man who had once worked on clocks.  Mark called him, but the man said he definitely was not going to climb up to the clock tower and told Mark, "Keep working, you'll figure out what's wrong."  Mark asked for a little more specific instructions over the phone, and the gentleman told him that a linkage was probably loose.  He checked all the linkages, and almost the last one he checked was loose, so he fixed it.  

Above the works of the clock is the bell, made in 1900 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Around the bell are many small windows, most with screens, from which you can look out over the town.  From the bell, we took a built-in wooden ladder to the next level to the clockface.

The clockface room has a clock face on each of the four walls, all connected to the works in the center.  
On the wall around the clock faces are more signatures.  
Above is one from 1915 as well as one from June 7th, '06...*1906!*
Mr. Jungling and I in front of one of the clock faces.
It was about time for the clock to strike 4, and since we had heard how deafening the bell is from up close, we hurried down the stairs back to the attic before the bell rang.  From the attic, we had one last treat before heading back to the main floor. Mark opened a little hatch in the roof so we could look out over the city.  When Mama looked out someone from the street yelled up to her, "Is there a leak in the roof?"  Fortunately there was not!  
We very much enjoyed our tour and are very grateful to our informational guide and the man who keeps Grundy County ticking, Mr. Jungling, for taking us and to our auditor Mrs. Deters for arranging it!  The next week we came back for a tour of the courtrooms, so stay tuned for Part 2!


  1. What a beautiful building! It's neat to see the old clock workings.

  2. Beautiful building!

    Btw, you have been nominated for the Sunflower Blogger Award at my blog: