Hyde Park Clock Keeps Time Again

08/09/10 7:34AM By Amy Kolb Noyes
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Courtesy, vermontjudiciary.org
(Host) One hundred years after its first toll, the clock atop the Lamoille County Courthouse is keeping time once again.

VPR's Amy Noyes reports about the local volunteer effort:

(Bell tolling)

(Noyes) That's the sound of the Hyde Park town clock, which sits in the tower of the Lamoille County Courthouse. Which was a problem when the clock needed repairs this spring.

Hyde Park town meeting voters refused to foot the bill to fix the clock. After all, it's an integral part of a historic county building. What makes it the town's responsibility? To answer that question we have to go back 100 years when a fire burned down virtually all of Hyde Park Village.

Nine days after the fire, a group of residents formed the Hyde Park Village Improvement Association, which led the rebuilding effort.

Duncan Tingle is now president of the 100-year old organization. He said the whole catastrophe started with some jailhouse cooking.

(Tingle) "Two of our citizens were incarcerated in the county jail at the time, for what I do not know, but it probably wasn't too serious because two of their relatives were visiting them for a mid-day meal. And they were using a wood stove within the jail to cook the meal and it caught on fire. And the fire caught the roof of the jail, and from there the wind blew and it burned the rest of the village."

(Noyes) After the fire, Morristown made a bid to take over as the Lamoille County seat. The people of Hyde Park were determined to maintain that status. So, as Tingle explains, they rebuilt.

(Tingle) "In two years you had this courthouse, you had the jail, you had the Congregational Church, you had the opera house, you had a wonderful water system, the reservoir, which really ended the controversy between Morristown and Hyde Park because if we hadn't had that, I'm sure that it would have been given to Morristown. But because we had the water to put out a fire, we were permitted to move forward."

(Noyes) So the courthouse was rebuilt, smack in the center of the village, and the town fathers decided to honor the occasion by installing a town clock in the tower.

(Steps sounds)

(Noyes) Up here, up the back staircase of the Lamoille County Courthouse. At the far end of the attic is a small arched door - affectionately called the "hobbit door" - that leads to another set of stairs up to the clock. Halfway up those stairs hangs the clock bell with an inscription that, as Tingle explains, put any question of clock ownership to rest.

(Tingle) "As controversy a hundred years ago about whether this would remain the county seat or not with Morrisville, also this year we had a controversy on who owns the clock. And, unfortunately, the evidence was rather solid because the bell, that was given by the town, had the names of the selectmen for the town, as well as the building committee."

(Noyes) That settled the question of who owned the bell. This summer, the Hyde Park Village Improvement Association raised money to refurbish the clock. The Association hired clock expert Bradley Reed to clean and repair the works. But instead of doing the job alone, Reed involved some local young people. It's the first step in ensuring the clock's wellbeing for another century.

(chimes)

For VPR News, I'm Amy Noyes.

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