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Facility Operations working to refurbish iconic red clocks in time for IU’s bicentennial celebration

July 13, 2016

When four red plaza clocks manufactured by the Ohio-based Verdin Co. were installed around the IU Bloomington campus more than a decade ago, nobody anticipated how quickly they’d become iconic landmarks on what was already one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation.

red clock reconstruction

Repainted components are seen at the Service Building. Workers will refurbish each of the iconic IU Bloomington red clocks before the bicentennial. | PHOTO BY JAMES BROSHER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

Now, Facility Operations personnel are working to refurbish the four cream-and-crimson timepieces in time for the university’s bicentennial celebration in 2020. The clocks are located near Swain Hall, Woodburn Hall and Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center and in the Arboretum.

“As soon as the clocks were installed and lit up, they started appearing on websites, photographs, brochures and just all over. People loved them,” building systems assistant director Andrew Lowry said. “But they’d started to fade a little bit, started looking a little rough. Nobody asked us to do this, but they’re such an important campus icon that we knew we wanted them to look their best.”

The clock near Swain Hall was refurbished in late 2015 and has since been re-installed.

Technicians recently began concentrating their efforts on the clock near Woodburn Hall. It was taken down and repainted official IU red by a local auto body shop.

A recent visit to the university’s Service Building on North Range Road revealed it was awaiting the special touch of Facility Operations employee Chris Eakin, who added gold-leaf accents by hand. That’s an upgrade from the clock’s earlier paint job, Lowry said, which merely featured gold paint.

clock construction

Workers lift the head of one of IU's iconic red clocks into place outside of Woodburn Hall. | PHOTO BY JAMES BROSHER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

Building systems staffers Scott Hash and Brock Groomer then replaced the interior workings of the clock with newer, high-tech equipment, including a more efficient motor. A GPS locator allows the clock to synchronize nightly with the nation’s atomic clock in Colorado to ensure it keeps accurate time. It also sports new LED lightbulbs and a new plexiglass face, reducing the amount of energy used as well as making the face brighter. The clock can be controlled remotely, meaning it will require less hands-on time to reset a chime or fix an issue.

Once the interior work was completed, workers carefully reassembled the clock like a puzzle, using silicone to ensure no water can get inside. Groomer and fellow building systems staffer Jason Higdon then reinstalled the refurbished clock on its base in late June, using a backhoe to lift the more than 500-pound clock into place.

Next, Lowry said, staffers will move on to the next one, doing their part to help the clocks maintain their iconic status.

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