court house clock tower restoration
Sandy Brown made a promise to a friend that she would keep his dream alive. It’s a promise she intends to keep and if she can’t do it, she’ll make sure other people do.
"I hope that during my lifetime I will see the clock tower restored," Brown said. "I talked to my children and my grandchildren often about it too, so that just in case I’m not able to finish the project that they will."
Brown hasn't been on top of the courthouse since 1996. Brown has worked on various fundraisers, grants and other projects to raise enough money for the $1 million project.
Dr. James Marion Kirtley, a friend of Brown’s, started a movement in the 1980s to restore the clock tower, which was taken down during the 1940s because it was believed to be a safety hazard. Kirtley was a prominent doctor in Montgomery County who delivered over 5,000 babies before his retirement. He was also a politician who served in the Indiana State legislature.
Brown said the clock tower held a special meaning to his family, which is why he wanted to see its return. His mother was the first woman to hold an office at the courthouse and said she always relied on the clock to check the time. While he was a student at Wabash College he was used to hearing the chimes during the day. When Kirtley went away to World War II and returned to see it gone he felt like a part of him was missing. Restoring the clock tower became a lifelong goal for Kirtley. He also wanted to write his memoirs and family history. Because Brown had a computer, he went over to her house every day for a year and they wrote the memoir together.
"We teased him and said he always had a place at our table and a parking space in our yard," she said.
As they worked on it, she realized that it was more than just an account of his life it was a slice of Montgomery County history. Kirtley had leukemia and didn’t think he would be alive to see the memoir published and asked Brown to finish it if something happened to him. Brown suggested publishing it as a book and that proceeds could go towards the clock tower, which is an entire chapter in the memoir. R.R. Donnelley & Sons agreed to print 3,000 copies of the book as a donation to the clock tower effort. After it was published he asked Brown for help on one more thing.
"He said, ‘Sandy if I don’t live to see the clock tower raised would you continue my work?’ And I said. "I will, and I’ll do the very best I can,’" Brown said.
The Montgomery County Court House Clock Tower was restored in 2018 due to Sandy Brown's tireless efforts.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Steele